Flu cases near historic lows during pandemic

With so much focus on the coronavirus, it’s easy to forget that we’re in the middle of flu season. But right now, doctors at Memorial Hermann said they aren’t seeing many flu patients.

“I generally see two or three influenza patients a week during flu season,” said Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious disease specialist. “This flu season, I have seen exactly two influenza patients for the entire season.”

The latest surveillance report from the Texas Department of State Health Services said flu activity is low across the state. However, it also shows that testing at hospital labs is down compared to around the same time last year.

So is there less flu, or simply fewer tests?

“There is less of the flu circulating right now,” Yancey said. “Countries that have not stepped back on their testing are seeing historically low numbers.”

Yancey credits the use of masks for helping to keep flu cases low. But COVID-19 cases are still high.

So what does that say about the two viruses?

“Influenza is contagious but nowhere near as contagious as coronavirus. It is 15 times as contagious as influenza,” she said.

Since symptoms for the two viruses are similar, the doctor said facilities she goes into are testing people who are sick for both COVID and flu.

Yancey warned that flu season isn’t over and peaks can happen later in the season. She said it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

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