NewsHealth Insider


Where's flu season, and could it be worse next year?

Posted at 5:49 AM, Mar 15, 2021

It's the flu season that never really happened -- and medical experts want to keep it that way!

It turns out all the measures we've incorporated into everyday life to fight COVID-19 are almost making the flu season non-existent this year so we wanted to discuss that with our ABC15 Health Insider team.

So far this flu season, we have had fewer than 900 cases in the entire state. To put that into perspective, we dug through the numbers. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, during the peak of flu season in Arizona, we typically see twice that number of cases in just one week.

"The flu is spread in the exact same way as COVID-19," Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, Medical Director for Disease Control with the Maricopa County Health Department, explains. "It's through respiratory droplets and it is less contagious than COVID-19. So all the masking and washing hands and staying home when we're sick has pretty much massively decreased the spread of the flu this season. and we are very lucky for that. We wouldn't have been able to handle that in our healthcare system. So I'm grateful to all the Arizonans who wore masks because that's exactly why I don't think we've seen as much flu."

But it's not all good news. Doctors worry that next year's flu season could be a lot worse for two reasons: With fewer people getting the flu recently, that's fewer people that could have immunity for next year. It's thought that your immunity could last for a few seasons.

Also, the strains of influenza the vaccine protects you from are based on what's circulating in the population, but because there hasn't been much community spread, it means researchers will have to make some educated guesses as to what strains to include protections from. Typically the flu shot is 40-60% effective each year.