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Doctor says COVID-19 precautions, flu vaccine helped keep flu case count low


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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — Before the start of flu season, health officials and hospitals pled with Oregonians to take this flu season seriously.

“If we have a bad influenza season hitting on top of Covid-19, we’re really going to overwhelm our hospitals. So, now, in particular, it’s important to prevent the one disease that we have a vaccine to prevent right now, which is influenza,” Dr. Paul Cieslak with the Oregon Health Authority said back in October 2020.

During flu season, the OHA has published weekly reports about the state’s flu data. To date, the OHA reported there has been no reports of flu hospitalizations.

“Flu season this year really has been incredibly mild,” Dr. Lorne Walker said.

In the most recent week’s data, there were only four positive cases across the state. This is a 180 from the previous year, where the same week saw 1,586 flu cases. Dr. Lorne Walker at OHSU said Covid-19 precautions helped keep flu case counts low.

“People started wearing masks, physically distancing and staying home if they were able to, so the tail end of last year’s flu season really disappeared,” Walker said.
He said we’re seeing the same benefits during the 2020-2021 season right before we’d typically see a peak in cases during January and February.

“Influenza, which is also a respiratory virus, that’s spread by respiratory droplets, the same precautions we expected to be effective,” Walker said. “We essentially have seen almost no flu here in the United States.”

Walker said the low case count isn’t only because of Covid-19 precautions.

“The other tool we had to protect ourselves against influenza was the vaccine. 2:29 rates of influenza have been rising here in Oregon and in Washington, and the early numbers that came back this year shows we were staying on pace with previous years,” Walker said.

Without both, though, Walker said it would have been a very different story for healthcare workers.

“All the issues we had to deal with Covid alone, you know, crowding of hospitals, shortages in hospital personnel, PPE to keep our hospital workers safe, those have been stretched pretty significantly with Covid by itself. I think we’d be dealing with something even more challenging if flu was prevalent at the same time,” Walker said.

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