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Are COVID-19 mitigation efforts positively impacting flu season?

Mitigation efforts and lifestyle changes, like working from home and less travel, appear to be helping stop the spread of influenza.

TAMPA, Fla. — While COVID-19 cases remain high, influenza rates across the country are low.

Doctors, like John Sinnott, who has been on the front lines of the pandemic since March, are grateful.

"We're having a very, very mild flu season. Which having a 'twindemic,' if you want to call it, would be a nightmare," said Dr. Sinnott, an epidemiologist with USF Health and Tampa General Hospital.

Part of the reason for a more mild flu season could be that mitigation efforts states put in place for COVID-19 appear to work well against influenza.

"We're not all running around doing our normal daily lives. You know, a significant portion of us are following the guidelines, wearing masks, physically distancing, things like that," said Dr. Michael Teng, a virologist with USF Health.

According to the CDC influenza tracker, seasonal flu rates are low across the U.S. And here in Florida, we are seeing the same.

Credit: CDC
Credit: CDC

Experts like Dr. Teng believe workplace and living mitigation efforts are also helping. "Disinfecting our workplaces and doorknobs and stuff like that. So, you know, all these things that we're doing are going to help."

Less travel could also be having a positive effect on keeping flu rates down. 

"Travel is a big one. How many times have you got an airplane somebody's coughing and sneezing in the back. Now many people are coughing and sneezing into the mask. So it's different," Dr. Teng said.

The flu can be particularly dangerous for children. Last season, influenza claimed the lives of 188 children in the United States according to data from the CDC. So far this season, one child has died from the flu.

Flu season is not over just yet, so, doctors are urging people to stay safe, continue to wash their hands, physically distance, and wear a mask.

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