Tri-county area sees dramatic drop in flu cases this season

Updated: Mar. 10, 2021 at 5:29 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - There were fears a COVID-19 and influenza ‘twindemic’ would happen over the fall and winter, but it didn’t.

During the 2019-2020 flu season, the state Department of Health said there were more than 4,000 confirmed flu cases in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Then we were hit with the COVID pandemic and this year’s flu season has added up to fewer than 200 cases. That’s a 96 percent drop from the year before.

Carthage Area Hospital Emergency Room Nurse Manager Blair Bulluck says one of his ER patients tested positive for the flu so far this year. Bulluck attributes the data, in part, to the health precautions we’ve all taken for COVID-19.

“Social distancing, wearing masks, and just the increased awareness of washing our hands at this point - all that stuff combined together keeps pretty much any virus at bay,” he said.

If we break it down by county, compared to the previous flu season, Jefferson County has 94 percent fewer reported flu cases.

There are 98 percent fewer cases in Lewis County.

St. Lawrence County saw a 99 percent drop, with 18 cases this season compared to more than 2,000 cases last season.

“The changes in how kids go to school, how we work, working from home, remote learning, having smaller groups within a workspace, it all helps us prevent transmission of all these respiratory viruses - influenza as well as, of course, COVID,” said Samaritan Family Health Medical Director Dr. Joseph Wetterhahn.

Dr. Wetterhahn says less travel has helped keep flu numbers low.

With this sort of drop in flu cases, you may think you don’t need a flu shot. However, experts remind us flu season lasts until May and it’s still a good idea to get a shot to protect you from the flu.

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