The flu season is slowly starting in New York state, where six weeks into the 2020-21 flu season, almost half as many cases of flu were confirmed in the laboratory as in the same period last year.
There were three cases of flu in the four-county GLOW region, two in Wyoming County for the week ending November 7 and one in Orleans County for the week ending October 24, according to the Department of Health’s Flu Tracker.
No cases have been reported in Genesee or Livingston counties.
The flu season starts on October 1st and lasts until May. On site, flu cases peak in February.
Nationwide there were a total of 444 cases in the week ending November 7, the latest available data. The state updates its flu tracker on Thursdays at 5 p.m.
A year ago, in one of the worst flu seasons in recent years, there were 870 laboratory-confirmed flu cases within six weeks.
There were 568 cases for the 2018-19 flu season, and a total of 488 cases in 2017-18 in the first six weeks.
In the GLOW region, 2,013 laboratory-confirmed cases of flu were recorded for the 2019-20 flu season. These included 695 in Livingston County, 598 in Genesee, 454 in Wyoming, and 266 in Orleans.
Last year was the heaviest flu season in three years, with a strain of influenza B – which is usually most common later in the season – is more common at the beginning of the season.
According to health officials, it’s important to note that the number of laboratory-confirmed cases may not reflect the real prevalence of the flu. Not everyone looks for tests to confirm the flu, and as the flu spreads more widely, the ability to hands-on and report cases can be overwhelming, even when people are treated for symptoms typical of the flu.
Influenza cases remain low in most of the country. This could be because precautionary measures that prevent coronavirus infection, such as masks, social distancing, and hand washing, are also making it harder for the flu to spread. It could be that Americans followed calls for flu vaccines this year so that hospitals don’t become inundated with flu and COVID-19 patients at the same time. Or it could just be the usual calm before the storm.
“Flu is moody,” said William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The southern hemisphere has given us reason to hope for a mild flu season, Schaffner said. Both New Zealand and Australia, whose flu season occurs during our summer, had far fewer cases than usual this year. Their residents also got much more flu shots than usual and followed social distancing recommendations very well.
America was much more divided when it came to social distancing. Public health officials have strongly encouraged flu vaccinations this year, which may have had an impact. CVS said it had already taken more recordings than it had done for the entire season last year. It is ready to fire 18 million shots, twice last year. Walgreen Co. said it had 60% more flu vaccinations this year than it did in the same period last year. Rite-Aid has also seen increased demand. Patient First, an emergency provider, said demand for shots was two to three times higher in the first two weeks that vaccines were given than last year. After that rush it was about the same.
Flu vaccinations are recommended for anyone over six months.
Nationally, almost all of the United States are green, the color used by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to designate “minimal” rates of infection. One outlier in the most recent report was yellow Iowa, which has low flu activity.
Includes coverage by the Tribune News Service