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Losing Sight of Flu: A Side Effect of the Pandemic?

Posted on February 11, 2021
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Serese Marotta, Chief Operating Officer for Families Fighting Flu shares thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic may impact flu prevention efforts moving forward. 

Last spring, when fears of COVID-19 in the U.S. were spreading faster than the virus itself, I had a sense of dread. Not just because we were on the verge of a pandemic, but because we were still amid a flu season that seemed to be especially deadly for children. By Valentine’s Day in 2020, we were in our eighth week in a row with double digit pediatric deaths related to the flu.

map with virus overlay

The sudden national lockdown in March brought a silver lining – a rapid end to the flu season. Still, 2019-2020 was the deadliest flu season for children since the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic, when 288 children, including my son Joseph, died from the flu.

Understandably, the nation was captivated by other news and the loss of 195 children due to the flu was not widely discussed. At the same time, many people started to make comparisons between COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, using the flu to downplay the risks of COVID-19 by saying things like “it’s just like the flu.”

As we come to the end of another flu season – a historically quiet season with just one pediatric death so far – we also come to the end of our first year living with COVID-19. At Families Fighting Flu, we are reflecting on key questions we now face.

  • How do we maintain a focus on flu when COVID-19 continues to be so urgent?
  • What does a low circulating flu season like 2020-2021 mean for future years?
  • When people become numb to the large death toll of a pandemic like COVID-19, how does that impact serious diseases like flu that have lower death rates?
  • What will the impact be on vaccination rates? Will people be more receptive to vaccinations, or not see flu as a serious disease to prevent?

There are so many more questions we have at this time. We will be sharing our perspective and thoughts from the community on how we can all play a roll in helping prevent flu. We invite you to share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and tag us in your posts!

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