Flu Infections On the Rise After Hitting Historic Low Last Winter

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LAKEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 14: A nurse prepares to administer a flu vaccination shot to a woman at a free clinic held at a local library on October 14, 2020 in Lakewood, California. Medical experts are hoping the flu shot this year will help prevent a ‘twindemic’- an epidemic of influenza paired with a second wave of COVID-19 which could lead to overwhelmed hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic.  ((Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images))

Last winter, flu infections in the United States plummeted by more than 99 percent to about 2,000 from about 38 million the year before. The dramatic drop in flu cases led to far fewer deaths as well -- in most years, flu ranks in the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. Experts say that last year’s steep decline stems from behaviors meant to suppress the spread of the coronavirus: social distancing, social isolation and masking, as well as vaccinations. Cases of the flu are beginning to increase and more are  expected now that the economy has mostly reopened after the pandemic shutdowns. We discuss how the coronavirus changed the game for the spread of influenza and how Americans can keep flu numbers down in the future.


John Swartzberg, clinical professor of medicine, UC Berkeley School of Public Health