Masks and other mitigation efforts help keep flu activity low

Published: Dec. 31, 2020 at 6:13 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - As COVID-19 continues to spread across eastern Iowa, people are continuing to wear masks along with other mitigation efforts to stop the virus from spreading.

Those mitigation measures have also stopped the flu from spreading. Last year, most of the United States saw high flu activity. During 2020, most states are seeing low activity.

Dr. Jorge Salinas, who is a hospital epidemiologist for UIHC, said the drop in flu cases while people are practicing these mitigation strategies are no accident.

“Some of the factors include limited global travel,” he said. “If people don’t travel as much then there’s going to be less transmission of the virus globally.”

Dr. Salinas said wearing masks and social distancing has reduced all respiratory illnesses, rather than just the flu and COVID-19.

“The public health interventions are being implemented worldwide,” he said. ”Wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, avoiding indoor crowds, washing hands more than usual. All those factors are lowering the transmission of all viruses. ”

Dr. Salinas said a similar pattern emerged in the southern hemisphere.

He said even though the symptoms for the flu and COVID-19 are similar people are still being tested for both because labs can test for multiple diseases in one sample.

“A panel with the same swab can test for two, three, ten viruses,” Dr. Salinas said. “So here at the University of Iowa we are testing those as well and we’ve only found one influenza case.”

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