With COVID-19 nonetheless dominating headlines, influenza (flu) has been conspicuous in its absence, particularly throughout what is usually peak flu season. The U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention (CDC) tracks influenza (flu) and pneumonia deaths weekly by means 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 thought 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 circumstances plummeted so low that they’re hardly price monitoring. In an replace posted December 3, 2020, the CDC said:2
“The mannequin used to generate influenza in-season preliminary burden estimates makes use of present season flu hospitalization information. Reported flu hospitalizations are too low at the moment to generate an estimate.”
Additionally they added, “The variety of hospitalizations estimated to date 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 may quickly be a “twin-demic” of flu and COVID-19 that will decimate the globe.4 To date, 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 checks 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-Might 16, 2020, the CDC famous a 98% lower in influenza exercise.6
Related drops have been noticed worldwide, together with within the Southern Hemisphere nations 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 checks. 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 as a result of decreased testing, since individuals with respiratory signs possible obtained COVID-19 checks as an alternative. Nonetheless, in line with the CDC, public well being officers have made a concerted effort to check for flu, and though “ample 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 common, but nonetheless detected only a few circumstances 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 mixture of pneumonia, flu and COVID-deaths, below a brand new class listed as “PIC” (pneumonia, Influenza, COVID).
Their COVIDView webpage, which gives 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 sicknesses” have been rising since September 2020, whereas the share of deaths as a result of pneumonia, flu and COVID-19 has been on the rise since October.9
As famous by professor William M. Briggs, a statistical advisor and coverage adviser on the Heartland Institute, a free-market suppose tank, within the video above, “CDC, up till about July 2020, counted flu and pneumonia deaths individually, been doing this eternally, 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 circumstances are above the epidemic threshold:10
“Primarily based on loss of life certificates information, the share of deaths attributed to PIC for week 49 was 14.3% and stays above the epidemic threshold.
The weekly percentages of deaths as a result of PIC elevated for seven weeks from early October by means of mid-November and are anticipated to extend for the newest weeks as further information are reported. Hospitalization charges for the newest week are additionally anticipated to extend as further information are reported.”
Did Masks and Lockdowns Cease the Unfold of Flu?
It might seem that flu hasn’t simply vanished into skinny air however quite circumstances 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 during which a cell contaminated by a virus turns into proof against different viruses;11 principally, cells are hardly ever contaminated with a couple of virus, so COVID-19 could possibly be successful 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 line with the CDC, nonetheless, flu circumstances 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 circumstances have plummeted due to the widespread adoption of masks sporting, social distancing and lockdowns.
Of their MMWR weekly report launched September 18, 2020, they state, “In the US, 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 sporting, though the precise timing diversified 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 in opposition to the unfold of flu, are COVID circumstances nonetheless rising? The 2 viruses are unfold principally the identical approach. As Irish science journalist Peter Andrews put it in RT:14
“The scientific institution is shortly forming ranks behind the idea 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 nicely for flu, which has been with us for millennia, however Covid circumstances are nonetheless skyrocketing? Do masks let one particle by means of and cease one other?
The proponents of this idea have an evidence. 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 utterly.”
Issues With Lockdowns
When requested whether or not he believes lockdowns have been accountable for eliminating the flu, Briggs mentioned 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 improve 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 properties to simply accept COVID-19 constructive sufferers from hospitals till Might 10, when the order was reversed, however by then the virus was already ravaging nursing properties’ aged residents — probably the most weak.
“By facilitating the transmission of the virus from hospitals to nursing properties, the speed of unfold throughout 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 Battle Flu?
The CDC is already utilizing the mysteriously low variety of flu circumstances 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 the US may stay low and the season may be 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 circumstances are subsequent to nonexistent this season, and that the COVID-19 mitigation measures already in place are possible 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, it is very important plan for seasonal influenza circulation in the US this fall and winter. Influenza vaccination of all individuals aged ≥6 months stays the most effective technique for influenza prevention and is particularly essential this season when SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus may cocirculate.”
If you wish to be proactive, it’s price remembering that flu shots are controversial, and your probabilities of getting influenza after vaccination are nonetheless better than 50/50 in any given yr.
In line with CDC information, for instance, the 2017-2018 seasonal influenza vaccine’s effectiveness in opposition to “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.