(NBC News) – Health experts have found a sliver of a silver lining in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of surging and further straining hospital resources, influenza cases are dramatically down this season in the United States.
“There’s without doubt, a sense of relief,” says Dr. Carlos Del Rio of the Emory University School of Medicine.
In the first week ending in January of last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported high flu activity in the majority of states. This year, during that same period, flu activity was low in every state.
“We are very happy we’re not seeing a flu surge because if we saw flu surge, I don’t know where we would be putting patients,” Del Rio says.
Health experts credit the same measures people are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19, which is more transmissible.
On average, a COVID-19 infected person passes it to two or three people. With the flu, the rate drops to one and a half people.
“That difference may not sound to you as much, but it’s actually huge. Because the growth is exploding exponentially,” Del Rio notes.
While the threat of a “twindemic” has lessened, the flu season isn’t over. As COVID-19 cases are surging, health officials say continued masking, social distancing and hand hygiene are critical, even if you’ve been vaccinated.