In dramatic contrast to previous years, Downers Grove-based attorney Aurora Health has not reported positive flu cases in its 26 hospitals since September 2020, the health system said on Sunday.
In Illinois and nationally, the flu is virtually gone, and reports are far lower than they have been for decades. Out of a total of 3,296 tests this season, Illinois reported a total of 25 tests positive on March 6, according to the state Department of Health.
Doctors and infectious disease experts believe masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene are likely the biggest factors in this year’s low flu numbers, Advocate Aurora Health said in a press release.
Other health experts said measures taken to ward off the coronavirus are an important factor in preventing “twindemic” from flu and COVID-19. Trying to get more people vaccinated against the flu likely helped, as did fewer travelers, they say.
The numbers are astounding when you consider that the flu has long been the number one threat to infectious diseases in the country. In recent years, it has been blamed for 600,000 to 800,000 hospital stays and 50,000 to 60,000 deaths annually.
Globally, influenza activity has been very low in China, Europe and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere. And that follows reports of minor flu in South Africa, Australia and other countries during the southern hemisphere winter months from May to August.
More than 190 million doses of flu vaccine have been given out this season, but the number of infections is so low that it is difficult for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make annual calculations of how the vaccine will work, Lynnette Brammer said from the CDC. There just isn’t enough data, she said.