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“No Show” for Flu Season Thanks to COVID-19 Preventive Measures | Local News

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According to doctors at two regional hospitals in Joplin, the 2020-21 flu season was rarely seen this year.

Consider that the 2019-20 season from October 1, 2019 to April 4, 2020 resulted in 38 million illnesses, 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths from influenza. And this is noteworthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the 2017-18 flu season, 61,000 people died.

“All other respiratory viruses, not just the flu itself, have been significantly reduced or almost eliminated,” said Dr. Rob McNab, director of the COVID-19 unit of the Freeman Health System. “I can’t say I wasn’t flu-free, but at the beginning of the flu season … I could have had two flu cases, and I haven’t seen any cases since.”

Dr. Nicole Sleiman, an infectious disease doctor at Mercy Hospital Joplin, agreed that “notable” refers to the current flu season.

“Everyone, at least those hospitalized for fever or flu-like illness, are tested for flu, whether COVID-19 or not, and the number of flu is very low (cases). , “She said.

How low can it be?

How small is the number this season historically?

“This year, I had only three flu hospitalizations during the winter,” includes one patient suffering from both flu and COVID-19.

“Currently, there are no patients with viral respiratory infections or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the hospital, except for a few COVID patients,” McNab said.

If no new coronavirus was discovered in late 2019, influenza and pneumonia cases would decline during the normal year and become a hot topic around the world, killing 28.3 million people and killing more than 500,000 in the United States alone. Died.

Nevertheless, the CDC reports that influenza levels in all states and territories are “minimal” and “lower than normal” during this influenza season.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, between October 1st and December 26th, 2020, 681 people were tested positive for influenza in Missouri, with confirmed influenza-related deaths. Was only one person. This was the lowest total during that period, dating back six years. During the 2019-20 season, Missouri recorded 46 deaths directly related to influenza. The previous year, 78 people died from the flu.

Overall, the average number of influenza cases in Missouri at the end of December is just under 13,000.

During the normal flu season, McNab said: There will be 2-4 patients on a particular day and 4-5 patients with emphysema who have had a severe relapse. “

The dramatic reduction in cold-like cases in Missouri and why it doesn’t circulate normally is related to the pandemic precautions adopted by Americans in the last 11 months. In particular, I wear a face mask or shield cover. Mouth and nose.

“What really changed (between this winter and the previous winter) is everything we’re doing right now to deal with COVID-19: masking, social distance, and hand washing,” McNab said. .. “I can strongly say that these are correlated.”

“I think another part of that is that many people don’t usually get the flu vaccine, but they did (one) this year,” Sleiman said. “Compared to the previous year, it really helped.”

Does masking stay here?

The fact that masking and other precautions originally adopted to slow the spread of COVID-19 worked well against winter flu should not be forgotten or ignored, McNab said. He said it wouldn’t be a bad idea for people to wear masks in public during the upcoming flu season.

“I think the answer to (masking question) should probably be,” he said. “The flu is terrible …. So if something as simple as (wearing a mask) can keep things like (flu) away, why don’t you want to do it? Is it? “

One of the early misconceptions about the coronavirus was that it was a one-time experience. In other words, the Americans hunt down, the pandemic flushes the community like a huge wave, disappears after a few months, and everything returns to normal.

It didn’t happen. As McNab said, “COVID-19 stays here.”

The best way to fight COVID-19 is for people to be vaccinated now and in the future each year.

“I don’t know how to get around it. At this time, there is no way to remove COVID-19 from the environment,” McNab said. “Like the flu, (COVID-19) is so mutated that last year’s vaccine may not be as effective as it needs this year. It needs to be vaccinated against the flu every year. That’s why. Another flu. “

The body’s immune system and its antibodies are constructed to physically interact with the invading virus and its spiked protein form so that the key fits snugly in the key. According to McNab, antibodies are not as effective as usual if they need to be perfectly matched for them to be effective and there are few changes to these proteins caused by mutations. It may not be.

Masking, hand washing, and social distance “helps slow the spread of the infection, which is great and very reasonable,” he said. Our immunity; The stronger the immunity to this, the fewer people are sick or the symptoms may disappear altogether. “

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