The COVID-19 pandemic has been a horrible experience for the past two years, but it had one silver lining – beating the flu.
As I have written before, the annual rite of winter life, flu outbreaks, became almost nothing during the 2020-21 flu season. On average, the flu infects roughly 30 million Americans every year and kills over 30,000. Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that over 650,000 people die of respiratory illnesses related to the flu.
As with COVID-19, the elderly, the poor, and people of color are all overrepresented among the victims of the flu. Moreover, the annual economic cost of the flu in the USA averages nearly $90 billion.
Of course, things changed during the 2020-21 flu season. The US had only around 2,000 cases of the flu. No, that is not a typo, there were only 2,000 flu cases in the USA during the 2020-21 flu season. In other words, there were 17,000 times fewer flu cases than the 35 million cases during the 2019-2020 flu season.
During the 2019-20 flu season, 199 children died of the virus. In 2020-21, only one child died.
In fact, other respiratory viruses nearly disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic – respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza, rhinovirus, and adenovirus. I’ve been watching infectious diseases for decades, and this was truly amazing.
So how can we stop the flu once the COVID-19 pandemic is done? And that’s where it gets complicated.Continue reading “Thanks to COVID-19, we beat the flu for the first time in history”