SALT LAKE CITY — Thank the COVID-19 restrictions throughout the nation and Utah for keeping the flu case numbers low this year.
Turning to the Utah Department of Health website, Dave Noriega discovered there were 1,310 hospitalizations for the flu last season. He also found that there were only 14 hospitalizations this year due to influenza in Utah.
During the 2018-2019 season, there were 1,809 flu hospitalizations in Utah.
Dr. Todd Vento, infectious disease specialist at Intermountain Healthcare, joined Dave and Debbie Dujanovic Thursday to talk about why the flu cases are unusually low this season.
He said there were 14,000 hospitalizations for COVID infections in Utah alone during the last year of the pandemic.
Utah flu numbers
Vento noted flu case numbers are also down because people are traveling less due to COVID-19 restrictions and more people are being vaccinated for the flu.
“Many of us are doing masks, distancing, decreasing our gathering, and hand hygiene — a lot more focus on hand hygiene,” he said, noting those practices keep flu numbers low.
“Dr. Vento, give us an idea, does this hurt our long-term immune system or is this still great news?” Dave asked.
“If we were in the middle of the COVID pandemic with high rates of COVID hospitalizations, deaths and cases while we also had a lot of influenza cases, we’d be in serious trouble in our ICUs [intensive care units], and all of our hospitals right now would be much worse,” Vento said.
“Dr. Vento, I have seen my Facebook epidemiologist friends post about the fact that, ‘Well, perhaps doctors are confusing the flu with COVID.’ I don’t believe that to be the case. But maybe you can walk us through that,” Debbie said. “How do you know for sure it’s a case of COVID and maybe they don’t have both the flu and COVID or just the flu?”
“Certainly, we have seen more symptoms of decreased taste and decrease smell with COVID than we do typically with flu,” Vento said. “The flu can be a lot more abrupt on an onset, so sometimes you can get a feel for that. But more importantly, we have algorithms, clinical testing and screening algorithms, for patients when they show up in primary care emergency departments to test for the flu and for COVID, so that we know what we’re dealing [with].”
He added that public health mitigation efforts, such as hand washing, social distancing and face masking, keep the flu — which is less transmissible than COVID-19 — from spreading.
Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.
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