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Did the U.S. avoid a twindemic? CDC reports flu cases down, vaccines up

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Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 3:00 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Last year, there was fear of a twindemic as covid-19 cases continued to rise and the U.S. inched closer to influenza season.

Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting unusually low flu numbers this year. It begs the question about COVID-19′s role in those statistics.

Because of the unknown surrounding the two illnesses co-existing, health care professionals around the nation, including Emergency Medicine Physician Dr. Christopher Painter at BayCare Clinic, encouraged everyone who could get a flu shot, to get one early.

According to the CDC, 20 million more Americans got the flu shot this flu season, than last.

“So just being able to see that these illnesses really do affect people can be motivation enough for people to be a little bit more cautious for their own health and getting vaccinated is one way to do that,” said Dr. Painter.

The CDC even said ‘seasonal influenza activity remains lower than usual for this time of year.’

“Now that doesn’t mean for sure that we won’t have more influenza cases coming up. We could have a little bit of a later influenza season, but with that said, at least indications are right now that the numbers of influenza will likely be down for the year,” said Dr. Painter.

When looking at the CDC activity map, during the first few weeks of January last year (2020), Wisconsin was in the ‘high’ activity category, this January (2021), Wisconsin is in the ‘minimal’ activity category.

“We have been seen a lot less influenza this year. And I think there’s multiple reasons for that,” said Dr. Painter. “I think it’s hard to isolate any one preventative measure as being the main thing, but between decreased travel, decreased gatherings, increased awareness of how these respiratory illnesses spread and good hand hygiene, wearing masks, all of those things seem to be factors in reduced influenza spread.”

The low flu numbers also help hospitals already at capacity treating COVID-19 patients.

“Hospital systems across the country are many times at capacity. So having any improvements in health widespread like that is very critical in terms of not overwhelming the system even further,” said Dr. Painter.

So did these measures, already in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, also prevent a twindemic?

Well health professionals say it’s still too early to tell, as the U.S. could see a delay in the flu season this year. However, early numbers provided by the CDC indicate the U.S. is moving in the right direction, as long as Americans continue to follow CDC Hygiene guidelines and remember why vaccines matter.

“With coronavirus showing us how important the vaccine is ... I definitely hope it’ll help people to realize the importance of that and very important to help realize the importance of vaccinating children,” said Dr. Painter. “I hope this also is an indication of how people may be more compliant and getting their children vaccinated as we, over the last number of years, have seen a decline in that and that is critical.”

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