With COVID-19 nonetheless dominating headlines, influenza (flu) has been conspicuous in its absence, particularly throughout what is often peak flu season. The U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) tracks influenza (flu) and pneumonia deaths weekly by way of the Nationwide Middle for Well being Statistics (NCHS) Mortality Reporting System.
It additionally creates a preliminary estimate of the burden of seasonal flu, based mostly on crude charges of lab-confirmed flu hospitalizations. Such estimates are meant to offer an concept of how many individuals have been sick from or died from the flu in any given season — that’s, apart from 2020.
“April 4, 2020, was the final week in-season preliminary burden estimates have been supplied,” the CDC wrote on its 2019-2020 U.S. flu season webpage.1 The rationale the estimates stopped in April is as a result of flu instances plummeted so low that they’re hardly value monitoring. In an replace posted December 3, 2020, the CDC acknowledged:2
“The mannequin used to generate influenza in-season preliminary burden estimates makes use of present season flu hospitalization knowledge. Reported flu hospitalizations are too low right now to generate an estimate.”
In addition they added, “The variety of hospitalizations estimated thus far this season is decrease than end-of-season complete hospitalization estimates for any season since CDC started making these estimates.”3
Flu Deaths Plummet Whereas COVID Instances Rise
In late summer time 2020, warnings surfaced that there would possibly quickly be a “twin-demic” of flu and COVID-19 that will decimate the globe.4 Up to now, this hasn’t panned out. Within the U.S., the CDC reported that the share of respiratory specimens submitted for influenza testing that check constructive decreased from better than 20% to 2.3% because the begin of the pandemic.
As of September 18, 2020, they famous that constructive influenza assessments have “remained at traditionally low interseasonal ranges (0.2% versus 1 to 2%).”5 Additional, from September 29, 2019-February 29, 2020 to March 1-Could 16, 2020, the CDC famous a 98% lower in influenza exercise.6
Related drops have been noticed worldwide, together with within the Southern Hemisphere international locations of Australia, Chile and Southern Africa, which regularly function sentinels for influenza exercise within the U.S.
All three areas had very low influenza exercise throughout June to August 2020, which is their peak flu season. From April to July 2020, solely 33 influenza constructive check outcomes have been detected in Australia; 12 in Chile; and 6 in South Africa, for a complete of 51 constructive assessments. For comparability, throughout April to July in 2017 to 2019, 24,512 specimens examined constructive for influenza.7
It was initially thought that the steep drops in influenza exercise have been on account of decreased testing, since individuals with respiratory signs doubtless acquired COVID-19 assessments as an alternative. Nonetheless, in line with the CDC, public well being officers have made a concerted effort to check for flu, and despite the fact that “satisfactory numbers” have been examined, little to no flu virus has been detected.
In Australia, in the meantime, they examined “markedly extra specimens for influenza” this season than standard, but nonetheless detected only a few instances of flu.8 So what occurred to the flu?
CDC Monitoring Combines COVID, Flu and Pneumonia Deaths
The “COVID” deaths the CDC has been reporting are literally a mix of pneumonia, flu and COVID-deaths, beneath a brand new class listed as “PIC” (pneumonia, Influenza, COVID).
Their COVIDView webpage, which offers a weekly surveillance abstract of U.S. COVID-19 exercise, states that ranges of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and “related diseases” have been rising since September 2020, whereas the share of deaths on account of pneumonia, flu and COVID-19 has been on the rise since October.9
As famous by professor William M. Briggs, a statistical marketing consultant and coverage adviser on the Heartland Institute, a free-market assume tank, within the video above, “CDC, up till about July 2020, counted flu and pneumonia deaths individually, been doing this perpetually, then simply mysteriously stopped … It’s turn out to be very tough to inform the distinction between these,” referring to the mixed monitoring of deaths from “PIC.” They’re even utilizing PIC to state that instances are above the epidemic threshold:10
“Primarily based on dying certificates knowledge, the share of deaths attributed to PIC for week 49 was 14.3% and stays above the epidemic threshold.
The weekly percentages of deaths on account of PIC elevated for seven weeks from early October by way of mid-November and are anticipated to extend for the newest weeks as further knowledge are reported. Hospitalization charges for the newest week are additionally anticipated to extend as further knowledge are reported.”
Did Masks and Lockdowns Cease the Unfold of Flu?
It might seem that flu hasn’t simply vanished into skinny air however slightly instances could possibly be being mistaken for COVID-19 — and even deliberately mislabeled as such. One other idea facilities on viral interference, which is the phenomenon by which a cell contaminated by a virus turns into immune to different viruses;11 mainly, cells are hardly ever contaminated with a couple of virus, so COVID-19 could possibly be profitable out over influenza.
Nonetheless, with COVID-19 being such a novel virus, with reportedly solely a minority of the inhabitants having been uncovered, there ought to nonetheless be loads of room for influenza to unfold.12
In accordance with the CDC, nonetheless, flu instances started to say no in response to “widespread adoption of group mitigation measures to cut back transmission of SARS-CoV-2.” In different phrases, they consider that flu instances have plummeted due to the widespread adoption of masks carrying, social distancing and lockdowns.
Of their MMWR weekly report launched September 18, 2020, they state, “In america, influenza virus circulation declined sharply inside 2 weeks of the COVID-19 emergency declaration and widespread implementation of group mitigation measures, together with faculty closures, social distancing and masks carrying, though the precise timing assorted by location.”13
However right here once more this leaves many unanswered questions, the first one being why, if the COVID-19 mitigation efforts are so efficient towards the unfold of flu, are COVID instances nonetheless rising? The 2 viruses are unfold mainly the identical manner. As Irish science journalist Peter Andrews put it in RT:14
“The scientific institution is shortly forming ranks behind the speculation that the flu has gone away due to Covid restrictions — particularly masks, social distancing and lockdowns.
They ‘overwhelmingly agree’ that that is so; their certainty is outstanding at this early stage. However why would these measures have labored so unintentionally properly for flu, which has been with us for millennia, however Covid instances are nonetheless skyrocketing? Do masks let one particle by way of and cease one other?
The proponents of this idea have a proof. They declare that individuals with Covid are extra contagious than these with flu. It has an extended ‘incubation interval’ than flu does, and its ‘R price’ is thrice larger than that of flu. However even when all of those estimates have been proper, there’s nonetheless the unanswered query of why flu would have been eradicated so fully.”
Issues With Lockdowns
When requested whether or not he believes lockdowns have been answerable for eliminating the flu, Briggs stated within the video, “No, completely not. Lockdowns solely assist unfold the flu … Locking down the wholesome, quarantining the wholesome, is asinine.” Briggs believes that lockdowns would solely enhance flu an infection as a result of the virus spreads extra simply when individuals spend extra time indoors, in shut quarters with others, in dry, indoor air.
He additionally pointed to lockdown failures, just like the one which occurred in New York Metropolis. The mortality price from COVID-19 reached past 50 deaths per million per day in April 2020, regardless of a full lockdown being carried out in March. The state ordered nursing houses to simply accept COVID-19 constructive sufferers from hospitals till Could 10, when the order was reversed, however by then the virus was already ravaging nursing houses’ aged residents — probably the most susceptible.
“By facilitating the transmission of the virus from hospitals to nursing houses, the speed of unfold inside the aged inhabitants was maximized, and any doable profit from lockdown of the younger and wholesome inhabitants was rendered moot,” Dr. Gilbert Berdine, an affiliate professor of medication at Texas Tech College Well being Sciences Middle, defined.15
Social Distancing and Masks to Keep to Combat Flu?
The CDC is already utilizing the mysteriously low variety of flu instances this season as an impetus to counsel that masks, faculty closures and social distancing might turn out to be the brand new regular each fall to fight the upcoming flu season:
“If in depth group mitigation measures proceed all through the autumn, influenza exercise in america would possibly stay low and the season is perhaps blunted or delayed. Sooner or later, a few of these group mitigation measures could possibly be carried out throughout influenza epidemics to cut back transmission, significantly in populations at highest danger for creating extreme illness or problems.”16
In the meantime, even whereas stating that flu instances are subsequent to nonexistent this season, and that the COVID-19 mitigation measures already in place are doubtless efficient at curbing its unfold — they nonetheless need you to get your flu shot, “particularly this season”:17
“Given the novelty of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of continued group mitigation measures, you will need to plan for seasonal influenza circulation in america this fall and winter. Influenza vaccination of all individuals aged ≥6 months stays the perfect methodology for influenza prevention and is particularly vital this season when SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus would possibly cocirculate.”
If you wish to be proactive, it’s value remembering that flu shots are controversial, and your probabilities of getting influenza after vaccination are nonetheless better than 50/50 in any given 12 months.
In accordance with CDC knowledge, for instance, the 2017-2018 seasonal influenza vaccine’s effectiveness towards “influenza A and influenza B virus an infection related to medically attended acute respiratory sickness” was simply 36%.18 In the meantime, we already know that vitamin D optimization is a good suggestion, not just for COVID-19 but in addition for influenza.