- Flu News & Surveillance
A Nearly Flu-Less Season in the Southern Hemisphere
The recent holidays felt different and more somber than usual as families abandoned traditional travel plans, gift exchanges, and festivities to protect themselves and loved ones from the potential spread of COVID-19. The COVID-related deaths and infection rate in the United States continue to be both staggering and devastating. But today we bring to you some very positive statistics that show taking COVID precautions have big payout when it comes to the flu prevention.
Australia’s winter season is April through August. In August 2019, there were 61,000 confirmed cases of influenza in Australia. In August 2020, there were just 107. Yes, you read that correctly – 107. This is astonishing. Areas of South America and South Africa also had similar mild flu seasons.
The Bill Gates and Rashida Jones ask Big Questions podcast interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about what the world will look like in the months to come and post-COVID. Rashida Jones asked how the flu plays into this winter season and if it is worth getting vaccinated – a question we have heard repeatedly this year. In response, Dr. Fauci said, “It’s more than worth getting it, it’s essential to get the flu shot. I mean, everyone six months of age or older should get the flu shot this year.”
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, Dr. Fauci reminds people to be vigilant and wear a mask, keep their distance, avoid crowds, be outdoors as much as possible, and wash their hands. The fewer people hospitalized for the flu this year, means more beds are available for those with COVID.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Journal of the American Medical Association in August that this could be one of the best flu seasons we’ve had if people embrace the flu vaccine.
Mid-season data shows us that flu infection rates in the United States will not be as low as they experienced in the Southern Hemisphere. But we are encouraged to see that there has only been one pediatric death from flu this season, a striking contrast to the 195 children who died from flu during the 2019-2020 flu season.