And of course…it can be a problem for next year.
Remember the “Twindemic” that we were all warned about last year – the combination of patients with both the flu and Covid-19? Public health authorities were warning everyone that would listen that if it happened, it would be apocalyptic in terms of our health care system being able to handle it.
Interestingly, the “Twindemic” did not happen. Not even close. Which is not to say that some patients did not contract both the flu and positive Covid-19 viruses; just not anywhere close to meriting the concern that it generated.
The Centers for Disease Control are still reporting remarkably low flu activity based on the latest CDC’s FluView report for the week ending March 13.
According to the CDC, the hospitalization rate for the 2020-21 flu season was just 0.7 per 100,000 people. That is the lowest it’s been since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began collecting such data in 2005. Health professionals say that measures such as social distancing, wearing masks and staying indoors likely helped hold pediatric flu deaths to just one last flu season, compared to 196 in the 2019-20 season.
Of course, there is a downside: The low levels of flu have left experts with a much smaller pool of data used for predicting which flu strains will predominate next winter, which raises the odds that the 2021-22 flu vaccine will be less effective than normal.
The CDC’s recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine. Note the wording “well-matched.” Sometimes it is much lower. Even so, it saves millions of lives around the world every year. And its efficacy rates emphasis once again that the flu and the coronavirus are two very different things.
Other updates in the CDC report show:
- The percentage of visits to an outpatient provider for flu-like illness was 0.9 percent for the week ending March 13. The figure remains below the national baseline of 2.6 percent.
- No new pediatric flu deaths were reported for the week ending March 13. In total, one pediatric flu death has been recordedfor the 2020-21 flu season. This number is much lower than other seasons, with pediatric flu deaths exceeding 140 deaths each season for the past three seasons.
- The national flu and pneumonia mortality rate is 13.3 percent, which sits above the epidemic threshold of 7.1 percent. The majority of these deaths are attributed to COVID-19.
- And, all states and Washington, D.C., reported minimal flu activity for the week ending March 13, the seventh consecutive week in a row nationwide flu activity has been minimal.
Public health officials, epidemiologists, and infectious disease experts can and do get things wrong. The drawback to making dire predictions with worst-case scenarios, is that it undermines the public’s already skeptical, poor, and even complete lack of understanding the science behind the predictions by infectious disease experts, epidemiologists, and public health officials. They get very little credit when they are right…and are often demonized when they are wrong.