CDC: ‘Flu Activity Is Unusually Low’ this Year, 165 Flu-Associated Hospitalizations in Last 4 Months

A health worker takes a nose swab test for COVID-19 in Ecuador. Flu tests are also adminis
Photo by Franklin Jacome/Agencia Press South/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified the current flu season as “unusually low,” reporting the lowest influenza-related hospitalizations since the agency began collecting the data.

The CDC listed 165 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations in its weekly U.S. influenza surveillance report between October 1, 2020, and February 6, 2021, “for an overall cumulative hospitalization rate of 0.6 per 100,000 population.”

According to the agency, the number is “lower than average for this point in the season and lower than rates for any season since routine data collection began in 2005, including the low severity 2011-2012 season.” Even during the 2011-2012 flu season, the hospitalization rate was 212.1 per 100,000.

In the 2019 to 2020 flu season, the CDC estimated 39-56 million flu illnesses, 18-26 million medical visits, 410,000-740,000 hospitalizations, and 24,000-64,000 deaths. According to the CDC, those estimates “are calculated based on CDC’s weekly influenza surveillance data and are preliminary.”

The reports of a relatively inactive flu season follow a year of battling the Chinese coronavirus. Many of the symptoms of the virus match those associated with the flu, including fever, chills, headache, body aches, and fatigue. The CDC, however, states that a seeming elevation in influenza-like illness “is likely related to COVID-19.”

Some experts are attributing the low flu numbers to children resorting to virtual school due to the pandemic.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, told NPR’s Weekend Edition that the flu has been “essentially nonexistent.”

“Children are generally thought of as having the distribution franchise for the influenza virus,” Schaffner said. “They produce much more virus, they shed more virus for longer periods of time.”

Over 193 million doses of the annual flu vaccine have been distributed, compared to 72,423,125 doses of the coronavirus vaccine delivered. Of those COVID vaccines, over 56 million doses have been administered.

This week, President Biden said that the U.S. will have over 600 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, “enough to vaccinate every single American,” by July. While he tried to refrain from offering a prediction, he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that America may be able to reach a state of normalcy by “next Christmas.”

The U.S. has reported over 27,600,000 Wuhan coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. Overall, daily average cases are on a downward trend in the U.S. The CDC has reported 24.5k cases per 100,000 in the last seven days.


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