The rate of influenza this season has cratered and now an epidemiologist is explaining why.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the cumulative positive influenza test rate from September through the middle of December was 0.2%, down from 8.7% a year ago.
“The weekly comparisons are even starker: This week one year ago, the positive clinical rate was 22%, where now it stands at 0.1%,” reported Just the News.
So where has the flu gone?
Nowhere, explains epidemiologist Knut Wittkowksi. It’s just being called something else.
“Influenza has been renamed COVID in large part,” he said.
He’s the former chief of biostatistics, epidemiology and research design at Rockefeller University.
“There may be quite a number of influenza cases included in the ‘presumed COVID’ category of people who have COVID symptoms (which Influenza symptoms can be mistaken for), but are not tested for SARS RNA,” he said in an interview with Just the News.
Timothy Sly, an epidemiologist at Ryerson University in Toronto, told Just the News it’s because of “the protection that a large proportion of the population has been using for many months.”
Holden Maecker, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University, said he feels “pretty confident that the COVID-19 mitigation measures have caused the reduction in flu cases.”
But Wittkowski, who has been outspoken in his criticism of COVID mitigation measures, contends there is “no evidence” to support the idea masks would stop the flu.
“I think that these viruses are more similar than people want to acknowledge. People know everybody is wearing masks and distancing, and so people want to come up with things that are good about it,” he said.
COVID-19 cases have surged in states such as California and Pennsylvania where social distancing and mask policies are the strongest.
Wittkowski explained some patients who have the flu “also may have some SARS RNA sitting in their nose while being infected with Influenza, in which case the influenza would be ‘confirmed’ to be COVID-19.”
San Francisco’s ABC TV affiliate reported many doctors believe masking, handwashing and distancing are keeping the flu in check.
“The flu is almost absent,” said Andra Blomkalns of Stanford Health.
Kaiser Permanente flu expert Dr. Randy Bergen agreed that flu cases are rare this season.
“We are testing still thousands of people in our emergency room settings and in our hospitals for a combination of COVID and flu tests and we’re essentially seeing no flu. Some weeks we’ll have no cases, other we’ll have maybe one or two cases.”
Bergen say there may be fewer flu cases because many children are at home and not with their friends.
“Flu always starts in the schools. It starts with children,” Bergen said in the report.
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