Infectious disease specialist says lower flu case numbers due to COVID-19 precautions

Coronavirus

Dr. Shah thinks the amount of people who got the flu shot this year has helped too

(WKBN) – The number of COVID-19 cases across the state of Ohio is staying relatively flat. However, flu numbers are down quite a bit.

Normally, during this time of the year, thousands of people are battling the flu. This year though, that’s not the case.

“The number of visits of physicians’ offices or hospitals has gone down significantly,” said Dr. Munir Shah, an infectious disease specialist at Trumbull Regional Medical Center.

He says they’ve hardly treated anyone for the flu.

“We’ve only had one or two cases of influenza, which is [a] much longer number than previous years,” Dr. Shah said.

It’s not just locally. According to the Ohio Department of Health, since the beginning of October, there have only been 50 cases of the flu reported compared to over 3,000 in 2019.

Nationally, 925 cases have been reported since September 27.

Last year, the CDC reported 38 million flu cases, 400,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths.

Health experts believe trying to prevent COVID-19 has helped keep numbers low.

“I think it’s all because of the masks we are all putting. I think it has definitely helped us prevent the spread of influenza A or B,” Dr. Shah said.

Dr. Shah thinks the amount of people who got the flu shot this year has helped too. A record 192.5 million people received the vaccine, and if you haven’t gotten one yet, you still can.

“Antibodies are taken care of within the 10 to 14 days of the flu shot, so you will see the benefits and the protection from the flu,” Dr. Shah said.

Although flu numbers are low right now, the peak of the flu season will pick up these next few weeks, so there’s a chance we could see an uptick in numbers.

Dr. Shah says he’s been looking at data from other countries in the southern hemisphere, like Brazil and Australia, who had a mild flu season. He hopes that trend continues here.

“With everyone washing their hands frequently, maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask, hopefully, we should have a very mild flu season,” Dr. Shah said.

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