With the Flu season nearing its end, scientists and health professionals took note of the drastically low cases of the flu during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the U.S, it seems to have become almost obsolete, showing the lowest cases in decades. Just between October 1 to January 30, only 155 people were hospitalized for the flu—which is comparable to the 8,633 people during the 2019-2020 flu season.
Experts suggest two main factors: the first one being the implementation of social distancing, the interruption of large gatherings, and masking, as well as the increased push to healthier hand hygiene. The second being a phenomenon that occurs with flu strains, which is not fully understood by scientists yet, in which more dominant strains of the flu dominate over other strains; the speculation is that the coronavirus overtook the flu virus, almost to the point of nonexistence.
The flu is naturally less transmittable than the coronavirus, so more extreme measures being taken to protect yourself against COVID-19 likely stopped many flu infections. When the pandemic began, positive tests for the flu went down 98% in the U.S.
Scientists have also speculated that certain viruses that cause the common cold have thrived during this time and may provide protection against COVID-19; certain cold or other coronavirus type infections seem to offer protection. Another factor that experts have explored is the considerably lower volume of international and national travel when lockdowns began which in turn stopped more spread of any flu viruses across the world. Increased vaccinations for the flu could have also had an effect on lowered cases of the flu.
Generally, scientists have continued to have a hard time understanding the flu and how it spreads, lending examples like neighboring countries like New Zealand and Australia having vastly different numbers of flu cases even with their close proximity or the fact that the flu tends to rise in cases around winter but fall during other times of the year. These factors lead to a lot of confusion on how and what causes more spread of the flu.
With such low numbers of infection from the flu, there is also the possibility of some, less common variant strains, dying off. However, with flu infections lessening, it leaves room for other ones to have more of an effect, such as the swine flu.
Experts are suspecting that as restrictions lift and more congregations of people restart due to the rise of vaccinations, the flu will rear its head once again. With infections for the flu dating back all the way to ancient Greece, it’s disappearing act during the COVID-19 pandemic will not make the flu truly obsolete.