As COVID-19 rages, flu almost drops off the radar in Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After record high seasons for the past three years, health officials say the 2020-2021 flu season could reach a record low.

“I looked at the CDC map earlier this week and most of the country is still fairly green,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU Chief COVID Officer.

The internist from OU Health is talking about how the flu map looks very different than COVID-19 maps we have seen recently.

Flu cases are way down in Oklahoma.

The Sooner State has only had 300 hospitalizations for the flu this season. Compare that to 20,000 in 2017-2018.

There has been one death from flu this season in Oklahoma, compared to 85 last season.

“January is the most common month for influenza in Oklahoma. So we are almost through January and we haven’t seen big peaks,” said Dr. Bratzler.

But the lack of flu is not just in Oklahoma, it’s nationwide.

There were only 1,103 cases of the flu reported to the CDC from September 2020 to January 1, 2021 for the entire country. That’s fewer cases than the sparsely populated state of Maine had in the same span in 2019.

“There just doesn’t appear to be as many cases of influenza,” said Bratzler.

“It is possible that this year it’s a particularly mild strain that are predominating,” said Dr. Jared Taylor, Oklahoma State Epidemiologist.

However, Taylor says wearing face masks, washing your hands, and social distancing is working against the flu.

“What we have been doing for COVID, we are finally again reaping some benefits from that from the COVID perspective and we have assuredly been seeing benefits to it from the flu perspective as well,” said Taylor.

Doctors do still warn caution. They say flu season is traditionally at its highest through March and yes, you can have COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. They say early cases in Seattle in 2020 proved it.

“There were definitely cases where people had both infections at the same time,” said Bratzler.

Doctors say it is later than they would prefer but it’s still a good time to get a flu shot.

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