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Flu activity 'lower than usual'; COVID-19 precautions and flu shots keeping rates low, experts say

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Posted at 4:25 PM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-19 09:46:39-05

The CDC reports that the number of flu cases is low right now, and it could be because of safety precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including wearing masks and remaining distant from people in public. Also, high levels of flu vaccinations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks flu vaccine distribution and shows, so far for the 2020-2021 season, just under 190 million flu vaccines have been distributed. This compares to about 174 million distributed during the whole 2019-2020 season.

According to the CDC’s weekly “flu view” update, “seasonal influenza activity in the United States remains lower than usual for this time of year.”

“Overall flu activity is low, and lower than we usually see at this time of year,” Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, director of the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the New York Times. “I don’t think we can definitively say there will be no twindemic; I’ve been working with flu for a long time, and I’ve been burned. But flu is atypically low.”

However, they caution that flu activity may increase in the coming months. Flu season typically peaks at the beginning of the year, depending on the region.

The CDC’s map showing state-by-state flu activity shows the majority of the country with “minimal” rates of flu activity, with Oklahoma at a low “moderate” level. A comparison to the 2019-2020 season showed two states were in the moderate level at this time.

“The unprecedented demand we’ve seen for flu shots this season, along with safety precautions everyone is taking to limit the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing, wearing facemasks and frequently washing their hands, may be contributing to lower flu activity this season,” Dr. Kevin Ban, the chief medical officer at Walgreens, said in a written statement.

Related: Is it the flu or coronavirus?

Walgreens is reporting fewer sales of antiviral medications for flu so far this season compared to 2019. The health and wellness company has a flu tracker each season that tracks regional activity.

Health experts remind everyone it is not too late to get the flu vaccine and be protected for the 2020-2021 flu season.