- The United States continues to experience an unusually mild flu season with most states seeing only minimal flu activity.
- Last year by this time, the flu was widespread in the United States, with more than 9 million reported cases.
- Some states including Mississippi are experiencing moderate flu activity.
Influenza seems to have taken a back seat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s flu season couldn’t be more different.
Though flu is out there in certain states including Mississippi and Texas, the United States continues to experience an unusually mild flu season.
But even in states with minimal activity, the flu is making its rounds.
Most states are reporting minimal flu activity, according to the latest flu report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, there are some states reporting more than minimal flu activity.
Mississippi is experiencing moderate flu activity, with most cases occurring in the city of Jackson.
Nevada’s flu vaccination rates are well below the national average.
Currently, estimates predict 21.7 percent of Nevada residents have been vaccinated against the flu. For reference, last year’s national flu vaccination average was around
Texas is also experiencing an uptick in flu activity, according to a flu surveillance map from Walgreens based on prescription data for influenza antiviral medications.
Even in areas experiencing moderate activity, cases are still significantly lower than what’s typically reported in the country.
According to Walgreens’ data, the flu is spreading in counties in Alabama and Georgia.
The uncharacteristically low levels of flu observed across the country can likely be attributed to the mitigation measures used for COVID-19, said Dr. Scott Kaiser, a board-certified family medicine physician and geriatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
“Wearing a mask, physical distancing, and washing hands are not only critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19, but protect against the spread of flu as well,” Kaiser said.
In South Carolina, flu activity has been milder than usual. But in its place is the rhinovirus, which causes the common cold.
Dr. Elizabeth Mack, a pediatric critical care physician at Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Health, said she’s seen tons of rhinovirus cases this year, a trend that’s been reported across the country.
Most people who contract rhinovirus will experience a runny nose and cough and be fine, Mack said, but younger children and older adults can be particularly vulnerable.
“It just hits people differently,” Mack said.
Mack has seen several cases of young babies with rhinovirus bronchiolitis. It’s unclear what’s driving this trend, she said.
Some infectious disease experts suspect rhinovirus may be able to help prevent the flu by jumpstarting the immune system.
If the tissues that line the airways of the lungs were recently exposed to rhinovirus, the flu virus was unable to infect the tissue, according to the Yale study.
It’s unclear how big of a role rhinoviruses have played in this season’s flu activity, and if coronaviruses could have a similar impact.
With the flu festering across the country, it’s crucial to continue to play it safe.
The flu typically is full force around now,
“It is clear that flu activity is significantly lower at this point compared with last year. That said, flu activity may certainly increase in coming months so now is not the time to let your guard down,” Kaiser said.
And it’s not too late to get a flu shot.
“While it is a little late, if someone is not vaccinated I would certainly recommend that at this point in the season,” Mack said.
Though influenza has taken a back seat to COVID-19 this year, the flu is scattered across the United States.
Data shows the flu is spreading in Texas and Mississippi, and some states including Nevada and South Carolina are experiencing mild activity.
Most states are reporting minimal flu activity.
Flu season usually peaks around February and continues through the spring, so flu experts recommend keeping your guard up and getting the flu shot if you haven’t done so.