Influenza Returns: But with a whimper, not a bang

Last year, both I and PZ Myers wrote about the historic record low number of influenza cases around the world.  Flu season isn’t over, but we can already see that in places where there are lax attitudes or resistance towards masks there has been a major rebound influenza cases.  And where masks are still mostly required, there hasn’t.

The US is (sadly and unsurprisingly) where flu has made a comeback – not as bad as in previous years, but enough to be out of step with other countries.  According to data on the US’s CDC website, these are the current numbers.  That’s a quarter of the US deaths from flu in a regular year, but compared to 2020-2021 where there were less than 3,000 flu cases, this is a disaster.

CDC estimates* that, from October 1, 2021 through March 26, 2022, there have been:

3,500,000 – 5,800,000 flu illnesses

1,600,000 – 2,700,000 flu medical visits

34,000 – 69,000 flu hospitalizations

2,000 – 5,800 flu deaths

Health Canada publishes weekly reports on influenza.   The numbers for 2021-2022 are similar to 2020-2021, only about 1% of tests being positive, though the number of tests performed went up 50%.

Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre has similar results, their report for Week 12 in 2022 (page 9 of the PDF) showing abnormally low numbers.

Even the UK isn’t that bad.  Boorish Johnson and his cast of rightwing brexit clowns have reduced COVID-19 testing and mask restrictions (with inconsistent rules that they break themselves).  But even so, the UK Health and Security Agency‘s shows only a minor rise in flu cases in the UK for Week 13 of 2022 (page 21 of the PDF), a rise that corresponds with reductions in mask mandates.

Flu News Europe (a publication of the European Union) reports below average number of flu cases for 2021-2022, from countries that have reported.  Here at home, we’ve had mandatory masks since last spring, so the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 numbers are near identical.

One good note about COVID-19 and the effectiveness of vaccines: On April 1, 2022, the seven day moving average of deaths was 3,768.  That last time it was that low was March 31, 2020, when the moving average was 3,755.