Why so many COVID-19 cases but barely any flu cases this year?

Posted at 11:56 AM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 12:10:44-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Virginia state health officials say this year there have barely been any flu cases reported.

As COVID-19 has created a new way of living for people around the world, it’s also caused the number of reported flu cases to fall astronomically.

“We're really pleased to see that those numbers are small,” said Jeff Stover with the Virginia Department of Health. "Across the country, we've seen flu almost nonexistent.”

The Virginia Health Department tracks the flu case numbers weekly. There have barely been any cases across the state, and February has historically been a peak time for flu season.

Dr. Ryan Light with Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group said he usually has about one or two flu cases per day this time of year, but so far this year he's had none.

“The things that we were doing to prevent COVID are also for preventing the flu,” Light said. “We’ve gotten better with good hand hygiene. We disinfect better. When you’re sick, stay home -- those things prevent the flu.”

But why if the flu is under control this year, why are COVID-19 cases not?

“The flu has symptoms right away -- you know when you have the flu," Light said. "You may not know when you have COVID, because there are asymptotic spreads. The tickling in your throat and thinking it is just allergies, these are the people spreading COVID. That’s why it’s harder to control COVID than the flu.”

Light says the measures we have in place could also keep other communicable diseases like strep throat and norovirus away.

Experts still encourage people to get a flu shot, staying home when sick, continuing to social distance and wear a mask.

To read the VDH's full flu report, click here.