Q&A of the Day – Will flu season be less severe due to COVID-19?
Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: Thru the 2017-2018 flu season, there were 68,000 deaths due to influenza (CDC). Do you know how many deaths due to influenza have been reported for 2019-2020? ZERO!! Conclusion? COVID-19 is the cure for the flu.
Bottom Line: There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about the flu during the pandemic. This includes what you’re citing. I’m not sure where the information comes from which suggests that all flu related deaths for last season were classified as COVID deaths. That’s just not the case. For starters, flu season officially starts October 1st and the earliest known death, which may have been the result of COVID in the US according to the CDC, was a California man February 6th. The fact of the matter is that the CDC estimated 43,000 flu deaths in the 2019-2020 flu season. That’s about average. While we’re on topic I thought it’d be useful addressing the upcoming flu season.
One of the many other (likely false) narratives advanced by some, as we head into the upcoming flu season, is that the soon to be season will be worse than usual due to the pandemic. While we won’t know with certainty until flu season happens, it defies any and all logic that the upcoming flu season will be worse because of the pandemic. According to the CDC here’s how the flu is spread:
People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
Sound familiar? The flu is spread the same ways as COVID, yet it’s 2.5 times less contagious than the coronavirus. Given that this will be the first flu season in which most Americans are wearing masks in public and are social distancing... It’s all but certain this flu season will be far less severe than most. And that’s without the locally imposed lockdowns which remain in place through much of the country and South Florida. Ditto distance learning which will be used by more students than at any time previous throughout the flu season. Add in the elimination of most mass entertainment options, etc... What’s more is that many with the traditional flu will likely be more cautious fearing they have COVID-19 or could become susceptible to it.
The bottom line is that the flu spreads the same as COVID-19 but is less communicable. Common sense is in short supply these days, but it suggests we have the potential for one of the mildest flu seasons in American history.