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 the Nationwide Heart 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, apart 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 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 knowledge. Reported flu hospitalizations are too low right now to generate an estimate.”
Additionally they added, “The variety of hospitalizations estimated to this point this season is decrease than end-of-season whole hospitalization estimates for any season since CDC started making these estimates.”3
Flu Deaths Plummet Whereas COVID Circumstances Rise
In late summer season 2020, warnings surfaced that there may 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 constructive decreased from higher than 20% to 2.3% for the reason that 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-Could 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 take a look at outcomes had 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 had been as a result of decreased testing, since folks with respiratory signs possible obtained COVID-19 checks as a substitute. Nevertheless, in keeping with the CDC, public well being officers have made a concerted effort to check for flu, and regardless that “enough 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 ordinary, 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 mix 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 sicknesses” have been growing since September 2020, whereas the proportion 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 endlessly, then simply mysteriously stopped … It’s grow to be 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 as a result of PIC elevated for seven weeks from early October by mid-November and are anticipated to extend for the newest weeks as further knowledge are reported. Hospitalization charges for the newest week are additionally anticipated to extend as further knowledge are reported.”
Did Masks and Lockdowns Cease the Unfold of Flu?
It may seem that flu hasn’t simply vanished into skinny air however moderately circumstances might be being mistaken for COVID-19 — and even deliberately mislabeled as such. One other concept facilities on viral interference, which is the phenomenon wherein a cell contaminated by a virus turns into immune to different viruses;11 principally, cells are hardly ever contaminated with multiple virus, so COVID-19 might be successful 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
Based on the CDC, nonetheless, flu circumstances started to say no in response to “widespread adoption of group 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 carrying, 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 college closures, social distancing and masks carrying, 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 method. 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 nicely for flu, which has been with us for millennia, however Covid circumstances are nonetheless skyrocketing? Do masks let one particle by and cease one other?
The proponents of this concept have a proof. 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 charge’ is thrice increased than that of flu. However even when all of those estimates had been proper, there may be nonetheless the unanswered query of why flu would have been eradicated so utterly.”
Issues With Lockdowns
When requested whether or not he believes lockdowns had been answerable 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 improve 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 charge 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 Could 10, when the order was reversed, however by then the virus was already ravaging nursing properties’ aged residents — essentially the most susceptible.
“By facilitating the transmission of the virus from hospitals to nursing properties, 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 Heart, defined.15
Social Distancing and Masks to Keep to Struggle Flu?
The CDC is already utilizing the mysteriously low variety of flu circumstances this season as an impetus to counsel that masks, college closures and social distancing may grow 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 might be carried out throughout influenza epidemics to scale back transmission, notably in populations at highest threat 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 very vital 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 higher than 50/50 in any given yr.
Based on CDC knowledge, 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 additionally for influenza.