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 way of the Nationwide Heart 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 provide an concept 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 have 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 instances 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.”
In addition they added, “The variety of hospitalizations estimated up to now 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 Up to now, this hasn’t panned out. Within the U.S., the CDC reported that the share of respiratory specimens submitted for influenza testing that check optimistic decreased from better than 20% to 2.3% for the reason that begin of the pandemic.
As of September 18, 2020, they famous that optimistic 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
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 check outcomes have been detected in Australia; 12 in Chile; and 6 in South Africa, for a complete of 51 optimistic checks. 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 have been as a consequence of decreased testing, since folks with respiratory signs probably acquired 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 although “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 standard, but nonetheless detected only a few instances 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 offers 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 rising since September 2020, whereas the share of deaths as a consequence of pneumonia, flu and COVID-19 has been on the rise since October.9
As famous by professor William M. Briggs, a statistical guide 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 perpetually, then simply mysteriously stopped … It’s change 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 instances are above the epidemic threshold:10
“Based mostly on loss of life certificates knowledge, 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 consequence of PIC elevated for seven weeks from early October by way of mid-November and are anticipated to extend for the latest weeks as further knowledge are reported. Hospitalization charges for the latest week are additionally anticipated to extend as further 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 relatively instances may very well be being mistaken for COVID-19 — and even deliberately mislabeled as such. One other idea facilities on viral interference, which is the phenomenon by which a cell contaminated by a virus turns into immune to different viruses;11 mainly, cells are not often contaminated with a couple of virus, so COVID-19 may very well 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 response to the CDC, nonetheless, flu instances 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 instances 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 USA, 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 instances 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 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 effectively for flu, which has been with us for millennia, however Covid instances are nonetheless skyrocketing? Do masks let one particle by way of and cease one other?
The proponents of this idea 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 fee’ is 3 times increased than that of flu. However even when all of those estimates have 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 have been chargeable 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 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 carried out in March. The state ordered nursing houses to simply accept COVID-19 optimistic sufferers from hospitals till Might 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 potential 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 Battle Flu?
The CDC is already utilizing the mysteriously low variety of flu instances this season as an impetus to counsel that masks, college closures and social distancing might change into the brand new regular each fall to fight the upcoming flu season:
“If intensive group mitigation measures proceed all through the autumn, influenza exercise in the USA may stay low and the season could be blunted or delayed. Sooner or later, a few of these group mitigation measures may very well be carried out throughout influenza epidemics to scale back transmission, notably in populations at highest threat for creating extreme illness or issues.”16
In the meantime, even whereas stating that flu instances are subsequent to nonexistent this season, and that the COVID-19 mitigation measures already in place are probably 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 USA this fall and winter. Influenza vaccination of all individuals aged ≥6 months stays the perfect methodology for influenza prevention and is particularly necessary this season when SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus may cocirculate.”
If you wish to be proactive, it’s value remembering that flu shots are controversial, and your probabilities of getting influenza after vaccination are nonetheless better than 50/50 in any given 12 months.
In response to 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 in addition for influenza.