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Seasonal Flu Cases Drop Dramatically During Pandemic

Stock photo / Arizona Department of Health Services

February is usually the peak of influenza season in Arizona, but this year, flu cases have nearly vanished. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has reported just over 800 cases of the flu so far this year. The average for this time of year is almost 13,000 cases. That’s a 94 percent drop.

Cara Christ is the department’s director. She says, "A lot of the measures that are put in place for COVID-19, including wearing a mask, staying physically distant, staying home when you’re sick, and washing your hands or using hand sanitizer, also work for influenza. So we think those measures are having a lot of impact on the spread of influenza."

Arizona’s drop in influenza rates is mirrored nationwide and around the world. Christ cautions the flu season is unpredictable and says it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine. The flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, but health experts say COVID-19 is both more contagious and more deadly.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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