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Doctor: Lower flu numbers for 2020 could be due to COVID-19 precautions

Posted at 7:42 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 21:58:16-05

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. — A small silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic: Flu numbers are down this year, which is giving overwhelmed hospitals a little bit of a break as they near capacity.

Doctor Dan McGee, pediatric hospitalist for Helen Devos Children's Hospital says, that's because we're all doing more than enough to prevent the spread of the flu, when we follow COVID-19 guidelines.

“One of the few bright spots in this whole pandemic thing is because people are practicing social distancing, and masking, we’re seeing a lot less of the normal respiratory illnesses we see at this time year,” Dr. McGee said.

Masks, hand washing, social distancing and staying home when you're sick prevent all types of respiratory illnesses, especially ones that are less contagious than COVID, like the flu.

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“Covid and flu are two totally separate illnesses,” McGee said.

However, they spread the same way, through respiratory droplets.

“I have the flu, I sneeze and cough, you breathe it in, you get the flu,” McGee said.

Both COVID and the flu are treated differently, and flu season isn't over yet.

“If you remember last year we had a very light influenza at the start of the season. It was only after the first of the year that it began to pick up. I don’t know if we’re going to see that this year, but I’m hoping we will not,” McGee said.

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McGee says if you haven't gotten a flu shot yet, you should. So if you do get COVID, you're protected from getting another respiratory illness on top of it.

“It’s always better not to get sick at all. But if you’re going to have a virus, it’s always better to have one virus at a time, instead of having two viruses at the same time because we know with other respiratory viruses, if you get infected with multiple viruses at the same time, you get a lot sicker,” McGee said.