For over a year health officials have been encouraging safety precautions to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
But how did those same precautions impact influenza numbers this year?
Health officials say significantly.
According to data provided by Denton County Public Health (DCPH), there was a drastic drop in flu cases reported from the 2019-20 season to the 2020-21 season.
For example, there were 2,848 total positive flu tests reported to DCPH through last season’s week 10 (the week ending March 7, 2020), which was the last week DCPH counted flu cases.
Week 12 of this year (the week ending March 13), the last week DCPH counted cases, there were 93 flu cases.
Health officials say the precautions people have taken to slow COVID-19 is the primary reason for the large decrease.
“All the social distancing, all the mask wearing and people taking precautions every day, these numbers show that those really worked,” said Jennifer Rainey, public information officer for DCPH.
In terms of hospitalizations related to the flu, there were 263 through March 7 of last year. This year there were 28 through March 27.
Also of note, there were no adult or pediatric deaths related to the flu this season.
In terms of the number of flu tests that were administered, the number dropped from 13,254 in 2019-20 to 4,137 this year.
Rainey said flu surveillance and COVID-19 surveillance are done differently. She said most of those numbers come from hospitals, and not every individual doctor reports them. COVID-19 numbers, however, are more widely reported.
Still, she said, the apples-to-apples comparison of flu cases this year to last year is telling.
“It’s a drastic reduction,” she said.
Rainey said health officials are hopeful these numbers convince people to continue with these types of safety precautions not only to prevent COVID-19 but also in future flu seasons.
“We always have a big push for the flu vaccine, and within that we recommend those health precautions,” Rainey said. “We’ve also seen a lot of people get their flu shots than previously. We hope that maintains.”