Flu cases down COVID-19 cases up, doctors credit higher rate of flu vaccinations

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 6:27 PM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - While COVID-19 cases surge, cases of the flu are dramatically lower.

“I wouldn’t claim victory yet, but so far this year has been very graceful as far as influenza season goes,” said Dr. Fares Khater, Chief of Infectious Disease at MCHC and ARH.

During this time last year, the CDC listed Kentucky as ‘very high’ for flu activity. This year, the state is listed at minimal.

“It’s very encouraging to see low numbers of influenza infection this year. The vaccine is possibly very effective and second is the masking,” said Dr. Khater.

Dr. Khater says MCHC clinics have only at 55 positive flu cases since October. Usually, that number is near 400.

“Whenever the flu shots were available, patients were very receptive this year more than any other year about receiving the influenza vaccine,” said Dr. Khater.

He says the flu positivity rate at the clinics was 14.36% at this time in 2020. This year it is 3.6%. Dr. Khater says masking and social distancing are a key factor, but more people received the flu vaccine at MCHC clinics than any other year.

“Our vaccination rate at the hospital and clinic here is 95%, so that’s pretty high compared to previous years. We did really good on spreading the message out there get your influenza vaccine,” he said.

Primary Care is seeing the same results. Nurse Practitioner Christie Herald says it is not from a lack of testing. They test anyone with flu like symptoms for flu, strep and COVID-19. MCHC clinics do the same.

“On an overall basis, we’re not seeing as many with flu like illness that are negative for flu and negative for COVID. Right now, typically if we’re seeing those symptoms it’s one of the two or strep throat,” said Herald.

Herald also says virtual school is another key factor.

“That is also a place you see transmission of flu during flu season and so with the kids not being in school that’s probably another reason that we’ve seen a decrease in the number of cases in our area,” she said.

Many question why flu activity is so low, and COVID-19 cases are high. Dr. Khater says the answer is in the vaccine.

“We don’t have a vaccine for it until recently so it’s spreading and second is there’s more transmission. It’s a new virus,” said Khater.

He also says COVID is more infectious and more transmissible.

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