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COVID precautions may also be holding back the flu

Published: Jan. 29, 2021 at 1:39 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Experts say they are noticing very low activity of respiratory and gastrointestinal viruses that are common this time of year. They believe one reason could be due to shutdowns and social distancing.

However, some fear a rebound once COVID-19 cases decline.

Some call it a rare, bright light amidst the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Perhaps one of the silver linings of what is happening now with the pandemic is that we are seeing far fewer cases of the normal viruses that are around this time of year,” said Dr. Katherine Gergen Barnett of the Boston Medical Center.

Doctors at hospitals across the globe believe the measures being taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus are responsible, including Dr. David Hooper from Massachusetts General Hospital.

“The preventative procedures that we’re following, masking and social distancing, are working remarkably well,” said Hooper.

“And we’ve had our school systems predominantly closed or when kids are going to school, they are wearing masks,” added Dr. Richard Ellision of U. Mass Memorial Medical Center. “I think that’s really probably had a major impact on the amount of these different viruses that we normally expect to see.”

The Center for Disease Control has seen glaring difference between the low flu activity this year versus the widespread high flu activity during the same week last year.

But Dr. Gergen Barnett is among health experts that are concerned there could be a rebound effect.

“Because we have not been exposed to them as much this year, they may take their toll next year,” she said.

While others believe the pandemic may have a lasting effect on hygiene.

“Even if we dropped mask mandates and social distancing rules, we are probably still for some time to come going to have more of that awareness,” said Dr. Shira Doron from Tufts Medical Center.

Health experts say you still need to get your flu shot if you haven’t already because every flu case that’s prevented is potentially a hospital bed saved for someone who really needs it.

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