DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Difference seen in amount of positive flu cases this year

Digital Exclusive

COVID 19 cases continue to climb across the nation, but Erie County is seeing the opposite with flu cases. 

Flu cases are drastically down from 2019 in Erie county. As of February, 2 Charlotte Berringer, Director of Nursing at the Erie County Department of Health tells us, “Right now we only have 7 cases of flu reported in Erie County.” 

Berringer adds that the reported cases were in children ages 2-14. 

Emily Shears, epidemiologist at UPMC Hamot also notices the drastic change, describing this year’s flu season as unusual.  

“We’re not seeing flu; we’re not seeing RSV and usually by now we have a couple of cases. So, again very unusual for us but we’re thankful that COVID is the only respiratory virus because we know how to prevent it that we’re dealing with right now,” says Shears. 

The low number of flu patients and cases are providing some sort of relief to health professionals. The pandemic is believed to play a part in why the number of flu cases in the County dropped.  Shears says the precautions that we’ve been practicing for COVID are the same that should be taken to prevent the flu. Mask wearing, social distancing, and limiting crowd sizes is preventing respiratory virus droplets from spreading.  

Although the county reports low numbers of cases, we still need to do our part in keeping everyone  safe. Health officials recommend getting your flu vaccine if you haven’t already. 

“Sometimes, flu season can be late into February, March and April. 2019 was an especially bad flu season. Right when COVID started we were still having a lot of influenza cases so [flu] vaccine would be helpful with that,” says Shears. 

Getting the flu vaccine can also give a COVID positive person a little more relief with symptoms if they come down with both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. 

“The flu is a respiratory illness. We know that COVID is a respiratory illness. If they would occur at the same time, it would be that much more challenging for anyone who has both infections at the same time. It would just be much more stress on the body, and much more likely in theory to have complications of one or the other as a result,” warns Berringer. 

Flu vaccines are available at your physician’s office and pharmacies. The Erie County Department of Health is not offering vaccines this year. 

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