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Flu season nearly non-existent during COVID pandemic

Flu expected to return post-pandem
Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 5:24 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Thanks to COVID safety measures, Michigan’s flu season has been basically non existent. But, state health leaders said the flu will likely make a comeback after the pandemic.

Data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said only nine people were hospitalized with flu-related illnesses since the season began in October. More than 400,000 were hospitalized last season.

“This was a historical year with how few flu cases we saw,” said Dr. Paul Entler, Sparrow Vice President Quality and Performance Improvement.

“I was very, very happily surprised that we didn’t have a severe flu season,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS Senior Public Health Physician.

Michigan, and the rest of the country didn’t see the surging in flu cases that typically happens in fall and winter. In fact, the state said only one person tested positive April 18 - April 24, which is the latest data available.

It’s something Dr. Bagdasarian kept an eye on the entire season.

“What could have happened was had people let down their guard during flu season, had people not been responsible good citizens, we could have seen flu and COVID-19 surging,” said Dr. Bagdasarian.

Dr. Entler said they were expecting to see both surges when getting ready for flu season.

“It was actually a sigh of relief that we didn’t have both of them happening simultaneously,” said Dr. Entler.

The reason flu season didn’t really happen was the mitigations in place to stop spreading COVID, like washing hands, keeping distance and wearing masks.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday masks could be seasonal to keep flu away.

“You know that’s the quite possible. I think people have gotten used to the fact that wearing masks, clearly if you look at the data, diminishes respiratory diseases,” said Dr. Fauci. “We’ve had practically a non-existent flu season this year merely because we’re doing the kind of public health things that were directed predominately against COVID-19.”

But Dr. Bagdasarian said it’s too soon to think about flu season post pandemic.

“We’ll sort of need to readdress and see how much people actually want to continue to use these mitigation strategies,” said Dr. Bagdasarian.

State health officials say the flu will be back and is encouraging people to continue getting their seasonal flu shots. The state said flu won’t ever go away because there are so many strains and it can also spread in animals.

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