GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In August when FOX 17 spoke with Dr. Liam Sullivan D.O. of Infectious Disease at Spectrum Health about the upcoming influenza season, he was hopeful that more people would get the vaccine to give an already stressed health system, due the COVID pandemic, a break.
We spoke with Dr. Sullivan again this week 5 ½ months later, and he was happy with early reports on flu vaccinations. “From what I heard was that the percentage of people was higher than it has been in the past. So that was a good thing; we're happy to hear that,” he said when referencing the vaccination numbers; although, they are still being administered, so total numbers won’t be reported until several months from now.
In regards to the overall flu cases, clearly the news is even better and more quantifiable, explained Dr. Sullivan. “Normally from November to sometime in early April, you see this bell-shaped curve going up, and the percentage of positive tests for influenza usually is 25-30% by this time of year. Right now the average test of week to week since the start of flu season has been 3% or under. That is unheard of. We're almost at the inter-seasonal levels right now of positive influenza tests. Influenza is at a record low right now across the Unites States.”
Record low levels of the flu across the country. And regardless of the number of vaccinations, clearly the COVID mitigation efforts are having a real impact on the spread of influenza, said Dr. Sullivan. “So I think it’s really going to be clumped together; masking, distancing, school shutdowns; because kids aren’t bringing the influenza virus home like they normally would; the shutdown of other things in society, and then the increase in vaccination. It’s going to be a conglomeration of all those things together that have worked to have a huge impact on seasonal influenza virus this year,” explained Dr. Sullivan.
Dr. Sullivan said the overall numbers of flu cases and deaths should come out in May or June, but to track the flu, go to the CDC’s website.