During the 2019-2020 flu season, some 400,000 people were hospitalized for the flu, with 22,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last week — just ahead of the season’s usual peak — the CDC had recorded just 165 flu-related hospitalizations since October.
“Flu has been essentially nonexistent,” Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, said in an interview with Weekend Edition.
The mild season has benefitted from measures like masks and social distancing, he said. It helps too that, last year, a record number of people got a flu shot.
But Schaffner says there’s more to it: Kids — habitual superspreaders — are staying home.
“Children are generally thought of as having the distribution franchise for the influenza virus,” Schaffner said. “They produce much more virus, they shed more virus for longer periods of time.”
But over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, as schools went virtual and children interacted less, the chances of spreading the flu narrowed.