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While COVID-19 cases surge, flu cases are way down

Reported cases of the flu in the U.S. are down compared to other years. (Photo: KUTV)
Reported cases of the flu in the U.S. are down compared to other years. (Photo: KUTV)
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Three months into the flu season, and there is some good news to report. Reported cases of influenza A and B are almost non-existent as of Monday. Nationally, 666 people of all ages have been diagnosed with influenza A or B less than a week out from Christmas.

A weekly map of the U.S. shows the entire country in the green, with the exception of Oklahoma, which has low to moderate flu activity. Every other state in the nation is currently recording minimal flu cases. Utah is currently in the lowest category, along with much of the nation.

Early in the season, Gov. Gary Herbert made a push for people in Utah to get the flu vaccine.

“With the changing of the seasons, influenza season is once again upon us," Herbert said. "This year, it is more important than any before to get your flu shot. By getting vaccinated, you are greatly reducing your risk of becoming sick and thereby saving critical hospital space for others.”

You’ve probably heard his public service announcement on the radio or seen it online.

With COVID cases surging, there were warnings of a “twindemic” by health officials nationwide. So far that hasn’t happened. Flu numbers are currently at record lows, with .3% of those getting tested for influenza A and B this past week getting a positive result.

Social distancing, masks, stay at home orders and extra hand washing have all likely helped keep the numbers low.

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With record lows, there is also a record number of flu vaccine doses available. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 190.4 million flu vaccines have been shipped across the country — the highest number of flu doses distributed in the U.S. during a single season.

Every year, thousands of Americans die from the flu, though the numbers from the CDC are only estimates:

“During the 2019-2020 influenza season, CDC estimates that influenza was associated with 38 million illnesses, 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths. The influenza burden was higher in young children (0-4 years) and adults (18-49 years) compared with a recent season with the 2017-2018 season, a recent season with high severity, and provides evidence to support how severe seasonal influenza can be at any age," according to the CDC.

Pediatric deaths are tracked and so far this season there has been one pediatric influenza death reported.

Last winter, in the 2019- 20 influenza season, there were 195 pediatric deaths reported. In the 2018-19 influenza season, 144 children died from the flu. In 2017 and 2018, 188 deaths were reported in children.

Comparatively, as of Dec. 17, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports 172 children have died of COVID-19, representing .07% of total COVID deaths. The academy is tracking cases, hospitalizations and deaths of children ages zero to 18. Utah currently has the fourth lowest COVID-19 cases in children nationally at 10%. New York has the lowest at 6.3%.

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The CDC is reporting a total of 75 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations between Oct. 1, 2020 and Dec. 12, 2020, were reported by FluSurv-NET sites.

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