This year’s weird flu season just got weirder

A man exposes his arm to get a flu shot while a doctor cleans the space where he will receive the shot with alcohol.

Photo: Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer (access point)

Even as covid-19 continues to dominate public health highlightour old friend the flu is showing up with some new surprises. Tthis year’s flu season doesn’t follow the usual bell curve pattern, like an NBC graphic illustrates, where cases peak around January and February and then fall towards the end of April. Instead, the the flu has kept your pace in May.

Things were on a relatively normal trajectory until about 10 weeks later, when cases tapered off and leveled off. By March, cases began to rise, peaking at about 10% of all tests that came back positive for the flu in April. The flu has now stretched into May, although overall cases are still low. compared to the average flu season before covid-19.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dear that, between last October and April 30, the number of people who caught the the flu is among 5.7 million and 9.6 million. Has been an estimated 59,000 to 120,000 hospitalizations and 3,600 to 10,000 flu cases deceased. While these numbers are higher than last year’s season-what was it practically non-existentas people wore masks and avoided gathering, they still paint a picture of a relatively mild flu station. In 2018-19for example, about 35.5 million people were sick with the flu, and 34,200 people died from it.

Experts told NBC that the country is not close to epidemic flu levels by any means, but the persistent nature is remarkable compared to virtually any other year since 1982when the US experienced some intense outbreaks in late May.

An image showing the US as mostly green states with low flu activity, but Puerto Rico, New Mexico, and Colorado as red or orange.

Graphic: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

It is fortunate that we have avoided a large or even moderate flu season this year, as the most recent vaccines did not match the circulating virus. are, resulting in a vaccine efficacy of only 16%. While the CDC has said this year’s vaccine may not have reduced the chance of getting sick of the flu, it is continued to recommend the shotas data sample makes symptoms less severe and reduces the chance of hospitalization or death.

Efforts to combat covid-19, including the wearing of masks, helped stop the flu, even as the more contagious coronavirus continued to spread. However, as more people resume in-person gatherings and mask requirements are lifted, it’s no surprise that the flu is making a comeback in our lives. Hopefully masking while sick and during outbreaks is now normalized enough in the US that we can avoid the devastating flu seasons we once accepted as routine.

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