ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Health experts cautioned about a possible “twin-demic,” where flu and coronavirus infections would spike simultaneously. Now, deep into flu season, doctors are seeing the opposite happen.
“I don’t think we could ever wipe out a virus, but I think just by scientific measure of what we’re doing, protecting ourselves from COVID, we’re also protecting ourselves from the flu,” said Rensselaer County Public Health Director Mary Fran Wachunas.
Wachunas said she believes the low number of flu cases is because of the change in behavior caused by the pandemic.
“We still want to get people to get the flu vaccine because the flu season is still here. It’s not going away until May or June,” Wachunas said.
New York State reported 280 flu cases last week. That’s a stark contrast to this time last year where there were more than 13,000 cases tallied.
“There’s definitely a greater awareness this year. I think part of that is the ‘COVID-experience,'” said Assemblymember John McDonald.
Part of the low number of flu cases is attributed to COVID guidance like social distancing and wearing a mask. McDonald, who’s a pharmacist, says it’s also because more people are getting the flu shot.
“We saw a significant increase, probably about 20 to 30 percent in regards to flu vaccinations,’ McDonald said.
Chief Medical Officer of Acute Care at St. Peter’s Health Partners Dr. Alan Sanders said health departments across the globe are seeing low infection rates.
“We’ve never seen flu this minimal in our community,” Sanders said.
St. Peter’s had a 15 percent increase in the number of people getting the flu shot this year.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to know how virulent or how striking the flu was this year, but in terms of cases and mortality, it’s really unprecedented,” Sanders said.