Influenza activity remained low throughout the summer and now remains low into the fall. This may be due to a dramatic shift in healthcare seeking behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Nationwide, just 1.1% of patient visits recorded by the US Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were due to influenza-like illness. This percentage is lower than the national baseline of 2.6%, says the latest CDC FluView report for the week ending in October 3.
Only 0.21% of respiratory specimens tested positive for influenza in clinical labs during the reported week. No pediatric flu-related deaths have been reported during this year’s flu season. Seven percent of deaths were due to pneumonia, influenza, and COVID-19. This percentage is above the epidemic threshold of 5.6% for this time of the year.
Since many patients are are accessing the healthcare system in alternative settings, including through telemedicine, this data may not reflect the true number of cases, the CDC data suggests.
“Therefore, while traditional healthcare providers are not seeing increased numbers of cases of ILI, it is important to evaluate other sources of surveillance data to obtain a complete and accurate picture of both COVID-19 and influenza activity,” the CDC report says.