Indianapolis — The 2020-21 flu season isn’t always the mildest to date, but it’s declining as one of the mildest in recent history.
Indiana’s influenza activity never exceeds “low” levels, with the state recording only five deaths from influenza, well below the normal annual average.
This trend was seen not only in Indiana but throughout the country. Health officials are providing a year of public health precautions related to stopping the spread of COVID-19 as the main impetus to severely curb influenza activity.
Entering this flu season, countries in the Southern Hemisphere, which winter in the months of the northern summer, are very mild after being slightly affected by the flu during the first onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-2020. The impact was expected.
In the final week of influenza surveillance in Indiana, the state again recorded “minimal” influenza activity, with 557 new cases of “flu-like illness” recorded on state-wide surveillance sites. This brings the total for 2020-21 to 15,881 instances.
The proportion of cases seen in outpatient clinics decreased slightly from 1.18% in the previous week to 1.05% in the final week.
The proportion of cases reported by emergency medical centers and emergency rooms also dropped from 1.04% in the final week to 1.01%.
Both numbers are typical of this time of year, as influenza activity usually recedes when warm weather begins during the spring.
But looking back at the entire 2020-21 season, this flu season was one of the mildest seasons the state has ever seen.
Although the numbers increased slightly in November and December, the state did not report influenza above 2%.
Indiana spent almost all of the season with “minimum” spreads, the lowest rating, but with the exception of a few weeks, at the second lowest level, “low.”
Influenza numbers usually begin to surge in November / December and may continue to rise until late March, but will occur in 2020-21 as activity has been largely flat after more than 30 weeks of surveillance. did not.
What is the biggest reason, according to health officials?
Masks, social distance, and improved hygiene practices helped control the flu. Influenza spreads through respiratory droplets, like COVID-19.
Even with these precautions, COVID-19 remained widespread, especially during the surge in late 2020, which began in October and lasted before peaking in mid-December. According to the report, the new coronavirus is generally more infectious than common influenza strains. ..
“COVID-19 and the influenza virus are thought to spread in a similar way, but COVID-19 is more transmitted to specific populations and age groups than influenza, and COVID-19 is more widespread than influenza. It has been observed that there is an event, which is that the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads quickly and easily to many people and can continue to spread among people over time. ” Said the Disease Control and Prevention Center on the COVID-19 information page.
Although this year’s focus on influenza may be less than in other non-pandemic years and surveillance may have declined, COVID-19 has its own confirmatory test, which incorrectly classifies influenza cases as coronavirus. It is unlikely.
Influenza surveillance also tracks “flu-like” illnesses without the need for specific tests for influenza, so it has a broader definition to catch people with symptoms without the need for confirmation tests for specific influenza strains. I will.
Combined with the low influenza rates recorded throughout the season, the Indiana Department of Health recorded only five deaths from influenza this year. This is much less than most seasons.
Over the past five years, the state has recorded an average of about 150 flu deaths annually, a slight increase due to the unusually severe 2017-18 flu season, with 336 flu deaths. It is distorted.
Other than its high outliers of the 2017-18 season, Indiana typically suffers about 70-150 influenza deaths annually. Therefore, having only five this season is an extreme outlier for the low end.
For comparison, COVID-19 has caused more than 13,000 deaths in Indiana since March 2020.
That said, the death toll of five people from the flu is not the lowest number in recent Indiana history.
According to a year-end report posted on the Indiana Health Department website, the 2011-2012 season was also an unusually mild year, with only three flu deaths recorded during that season. It was.
“Compared to other seasons, the 2011-2012 season set new records for the lowest and shortest peaks of influenza-like illness,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote in a summary of that season. .. “The season started late and was mild compared to most previous seasons when surveillance data was available.”
The CDC reports that this year’s flu impact is even smaller nationwide, with influenza hospitalization rates of only 0.8 per 100,000.
“This is the lowest rate of any season since regular data collection began in 2005, including the less severe 2011-12 season,” the CDC reported. “The end-of-season rate is one-tenth that of the 2011-12 season.”
Nationally, the CDC has also recorded only one childhood death from influenza throughout the season, which was usually normal for about 200 people in the last few years.
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