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A Silver Lining to COVID-19 – Fewer Flu Cases

Masks, travel restrictions and working from home haven't stopped the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have led to many fewer flu cases.

If there were one good thing about COVID-19, it could be the impact on influenza. Public health authorities have noticed many fewer flu cases than they expected at this time of year.

Why Are We Seeing Fewer Flu Cases?

In the UK, fewer flu cases have been reported this season than at any time in the last century. Notably, the Royal College of General Practices found 35 positive influenza tests out of 3.9 million patients being monitored. 

The US story is similar. For the week ending January 23, 2021, the CDC reports minimal activity for influenza-like illness. At approximately the same time period in 2019, many people were suffering flu or flu-like symptoms

Masks and Limited Gatherings Help Control Influenza:

Measures designed to control COVID-19, such as travel restrictions, school closures, mask requirements, limits on gatherings and working from home, may have limited the spread of influenza. Such techniques seem to work better against the flu than they do against COVID-19.

Child Paralysis Cases Also Low:

Another silver lining that might be the result of COVID-19 control measures: pediatricians and neurologists have seen many fewer cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) than they expected. As one reporter comments, lockdowns (and probably other tactics as well) slow the spread of enterovirus D68, the prime suspect behind these cases, even more effectively than that of SARS-CoV-2. Health experts worry, however, that once restrictions are lifted, cases of this polio-like illness may rebound. 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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