Despite the horrifying surge of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the United States right now, one bit of good news is emerging this winter: It looks unlikely that the country will endure a “twindemic” of both flu and the coronavirus at the same time.
That comes as a profound relief to public health officials who predicted as far back as April that thousands of flu victims with pneumonia could pour into hospitals this winter, competing with equally desperate Covid-19 pneumonia victims for scarce ventilators.
“Overall flu activity is low, and lower than we usually see at this time of year,” said Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, director of the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I don’t think we can definitively say there will be no twindemic; I’ve been working with flu for a long time, and I’ve been burned. But flu is atypically low.”
Since September, the C.D.C. “FluView” — its weekly report on influenza surveillance — has shown all 50 states in shades of green and chartreuse, indicating “minimal” or “low” flu activity. Normally by December, at least some states are painted in oranges and reds for “moderate” and “high.”
(For one puzzling week in November, Iowa stood out in dark burgundy, indicating “very high” flu levels. But that turned out to be a reporting error, Dr. Jernigan said.)
Of 232,452 swabs from across the country that have been tested for flu, only 496, or 0.2 percent, have come up positive.
That has buoyed the spirits of flu experts.
Dr. William Schaffner, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, which promotes flu shots, said he was recently on a telephone discussion with other preventive medicine specialists. “Everybody was in quiet awe about how low flu is,” he said. “Somebody said: ‘Shh, don’t talk about it. The virus will hear us.’”
Flu numbers are likely to remain low for many more weeks, predicted Kinsa Health, a company that uses cellphone-connected thermometers and historical databases to forecast flu trends.
“Going forward, we don’t expect influenza-like illness to go high,” said Inder Singh, Kinsa’s founder and chief executive. “It looks like the twindemic isn’t going to happen.”
This article originally appeared in the New York Times, read more here.