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Unusually low flu activity in 2020 'happy byproduct' of COVID-19

'It really isn't a flu season,' West Boca Medical Center doctor says
Patient in Texas receives flu shot 2020
Posted at 7:53 AM, Dec 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-25 18:33:19-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting unusually low flu activity. Last flu season the CDC estimated up to 56 million people had the flu.

Dr. Cory Harow, director of the emergency room at West Boca Medical Center, said the numbers aren't even close to a normal flu season.

"It really isn't a flu season," Harow said.

He said December is usually flu 24/7 at the hospital, but this year COIVD-19 has been the prominent issue they are seeing.

"We've seen only two positive flu tests this entire season," Harow said. "That's over 500 tests."

Harow adds the CDC usually reports about 6% of people in the ER to have the flu this time of the year.

The numbers from West Boca Medical Center mirror what the rest of Florida and the U.S. is reporting.

West Boca Medical Center entrance and sign, December 2020

In the week 50 flu report, the CDC reports close to 2,900 deaths related to the flu, COVID-19 and pneumonia. Only two of the deaths were flu-related.

Maps on the CDC website show high activity across the U.S. this time last year, but when compared to this year the only state with "low" activity is Oklahoma.

Flu map week ending Dec. 14, 2019
Flu map week ending Dec. 12, 2020

Harow said the flu is spread just like COVID-19, and wearing a mask and social distancing has impacted the flu season.

"Decreasing the spread of the flu, it's a happy byproduct, but we need to all focus on decreasing the spread COVID, which is so much more dangerous and so much more deadly than the flu," Harow said.

Allen Rotman at Green's Pharmacy in Palm Beach said they are stocked up on Tamiflu.

"We've had people getting prescriptions for antibiotics," Rotman said. "Not as much Tamiflu as you would think."

Allen Rotman at Green's Pharmacy says there isn't as much Tamiflu as normal Decee
"We've had people getting prescriptions for antibiotics," Allen Rotman, who works at Green's Pharmacy in Palm Beach, says. "Not as much Tamiflu as you would think."

He said they are getting more requests when it comes to COVID-19 prevention.

"We've already had people asking about the COVID-19 shot," Rotman said.

The CDC reports no outbreaks in Florida as of Dec. 12, compared to this week last year when the state saw more than a dozen outbreaks across the state.

Flu outbreak data December 2019
Flu outbreak data December 2020

"We are in the most dangerous point right now," Harow said.

He added this is not the time to relax safety measures.

"It is not too late to get a flu shot," Harow said.