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, primarily based on crude charges of lab-confirmed flu hospitalizations. Such estimates are supposed to provide an thought of how many individuals have been sick from or died from the flu in any given season — that’s, aside from 2020.
“April 4, 2020, was the final week in-season preliminary burden estimates had been supplied,” the CDC wrote on its 2019-2020 U.S. flu season webpage.1 The explanation the estimates stopped in April is as a result of flu circumstances plummeted so low that they’re hardly value 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 knowledge. Reported flu hospitalizations are too low presently to generate an estimate.”
Additionally they added, “The variety of hospitalizations estimated to this point 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 season 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 proportion of respiratory specimens submitted for influenza testing that take a look at optimistic decreased from higher than 20% to 2.3% for the reason that begin of the pandemic.
As of September 18, 2020, they famous that optimistic influenza exams 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
Comparable drops have been noticed worldwide, together with within the Southern Hemisphere international locations of Australia, Chile and Southern Africa, which frequently 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 optimistic take a look at outcomes had been detected in Australia; 12 in Chile; and 6 in South Africa, for a complete of 51 optimistic exams. For comparability, throughout April to July in 2017 to 2019, 24,512 specimens examined optimistic for influenza.7
It was initially thought that the steep drops in influenza exercise had been on account of decreased testing, since folks with respiratory signs doubtless acquired COVID-19 exams as a substitute. Nevertheless, in accordance with the CDC, public well being officers have made a concerted effort to check for flu, and although “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 traditional, 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, beneath 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 diseases” have been growing since September 2020, whereas the proportion 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 advisor 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 develop into very troublesome 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 demise certificates knowledge, the proportion 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 means of mid-November and are anticipated to extend for the newest weeks as extra knowledge are reported. Hospitalization charges for the newest week are additionally anticipated to extend as extra 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 somewhat circumstances might be being mistaken for COVID-19 — and even deliberately mislabeled as such. One other principle facilities on viral interference, which is the phenomenon wherein a cell contaminated by a virus turns into proof against different viruses;11 mainly, cells are hardly ever contaminated with a couple of virus, so COVID-19 might be profitable out over influenza.
Nevertheless, 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, nevertheless, flu circumstances started to say no in response to “widespread adoption of neighborhood mitigation measures to scale back transmission of SARS-CoV-2.” In different phrases, they imagine 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 america, influenza virus circulation declined sharply inside 2 weeks of the COVID-19 emergency declaration and widespread implementation of neighborhood mitigation measures, together with faculty closures, social distancing and masks sporting, 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 circumstances nonetheless rising? The 2 viruses are unfold mainly the identical approach. 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 circumstances are nonetheless skyrocketing? Do masks let one particle by means of and cease one other?
The proponents of this principle have a proof. They declare that folks with Covid are extra contagious than these with flu. It has an extended ‘incubation interval’ than flu does, and its ‘R fee’ is thrice larger than that of flu. However even when all of those estimates had 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 had been liable 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 folks 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 fee from COVID-19 reached past 50 deaths per million per day in April 2020, regardless of a full lockdown being applied in March. The state ordered nursing houses to just accept COVID-19 optimistic sufferers from hospitals till Could 10, when the order was reversed, however by then the virus was already ravaging nursing houses’ aged residents — essentially the most weak.
“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 circumstances this season as an impetus to recommend that masks, faculty closures and social distancing might develop into the brand new regular each fall to fight the upcoming flu season:
“If in depth neighborhood 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 neighborhood mitigation measures might be applied throughout influenza epidemics to scale back transmission, notably 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 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 neighborhood 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 very best methodology for influenza prevention and is very 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 possibilities of getting influenza after vaccination are nonetheless higher 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 additionally for influenza.