Lower Flu Numbers Could Be Result Of COVID-19 Impact, Doctors Say


Friday, November 6th 2020, 5:22 pm
By: Hunter McKee


Flu season has started, but so far, the numbers are low. 

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, there have been 32 flu-related hospitalizations since Sept. 1, 2020.

“So we have had cases in Oklahoma, we have had people who have been hospitalized in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU's chief COVID officer. “To my knowledge, there have been no deaths.”

By Dec. 1, 2019, there were close to 100 hospitalizations. Doctors said the lower flu numbers could be because of COVID-19 mask mandates.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 and the influenza virus are both respiratory viruses that spread via droplets from one mouth to another,” Bratzler said.

Health officials said another part of the low numbers are we haven't reached the peak of flu season, which normally falls in January. 

Since some symptoms are similar for both the flu and COVID-19, Bratzler said most laboratories are providing a combined test.

“There's substantial overlap of the symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza that you could do a single swab on the patient and test for both influenza A,B and COVID-19,” said Dr. Bratzler.

Though flu numbers are low, COVID-19 cases are at record highs. On Thursday, there were more than 2,100 new cases and more than 1,000 hospitalizations.

Bratzler said data shows if we continue to take the necessary precautions, we can limit flu cases.

“Good research from the southern hemisphere that have shown that in countries that had broad mask mandates and really promoted influenza vaccination, they had a much less severe flu season,” Bratzler said.