In shadows of Covid, seasonal flu largely non-existent


Reported flu cases are significantly lower this winter as the country continues to protect itself from Covid-19.

Covid may be dominating the headlines, but don’t forget we are still in the middle of flu season. 

According to the CDC, the 2020-2021 flu season has been very minimal. While the flu seems to be under control for the most part, a few areas have still had some spikes. One of the biggest spikes was in Iowa City, Iowa during the week of November 7, 2020. Although it didn’t make it all the way to the top of the chart, it was still in the “very high” range. Obviously, we won’t know the final numbers until the flu season has ended, but this year’s numbers are currently lower than usual according to the CDC.

Let’s take a look at the numbers for flu season prior to Covid. 

During the 2018-2019 flu season, the CDC reported that there were more than 35.5 million cases of the flu. Of those cases, about 16.5 million people went to the doctor for their symptoms, there were around 490,000 hospitalizations and roughly 34,000 deaths during the 2018-2019 flu season. 

The statistics for the 2019-2020 flu season are a little different. The number of people who were diagnosed with the flu increased to 39-56 million people. Of those people, 18-21 million of them went to the doctor due to their symptoms, 410,000-740,000 of those people were hospitalized and 24,000-62,000 people died as a result of the flu. However, since the Covid pandemic started in the US around the tail end of the 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC doesn’t know if these numbers are fully accurate. It is possible that some people could have been diagnosed with the flu, but had Covid without even knowing because the testing was not as good as it is now. 

Prior to the 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC chart maxed out at a “high level.” However, the CDC added a new level, “very high,” for the 2019-2020 flu season.  

I recently had the chance to talk to Dr. Susan Ettinger from Cowpath Pediatrics about this year’s flu season. Last year she saw many cases of the flu around this time, but she hasn’t seen one yet this year. Dr. Ettinger believes that the safety measures for Covid are helping out other respiratory illnesses too. Wearing masks, kids having online school and not participating in activities is lowering the spread of germs. Plus, people are washing their hands more often.

“I talked to other people from other practices and they’re seeing the same thing. Their sick visits are way down, and they are not seeing any flu activity,” Dr. Ettinger stated.

Dr. Ettinger’s practice has administered about 1,500 doses of the flu vaccine this flu season which is a little bit more than last year. In an effort to get more of her patients to get the flu vaccine, Dr. Ettinger’s office offered a drive-in service. Rather than entering the office, the nurse would come out to your car and give you the flu shot. 

For more information about the flu, you can visit the CDC website at,