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Flu cases are way down in Alaska, state says

Cases of the flu are way down in Alaska
Cases of the flu are way down in Alaska
Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 6:32 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It might be considered one bright spot in the national health report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu cases are unusually low this year. That’s also the case in Alaska.

Donna Fearey works in the epidemiology section of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Fearey said a software glitch has hindered the reporting system for flu data since mid-December but that statewide cases number “just a handful” at a time where normally there might be hundreds.

In 2019-20 flu season, there were 11 deaths attributed to the flu in Alaska. This year there are none.

“We are just not seeing influenza,” said Fearey. Adding the precautions Alaskans are taking to avoid spreading COVID-19 may also be stopping the flu.

“You know, social distancing, hand washing, staying with face coverings, kids not in school. All those are reasons, because it’s a respiratory illness, that we are not seeing the flu activity.”

Low flu numbers are also good news for the state’s health care system.

“Early on in the pandemic, this fall, we were so concerned that we’d have this double surge that would really strike our community and our healthcare structure with COVID and influenza,” said Fearey. “Because influenza every year is associated with lots of sickness and hospitalization. But, fortunately, we have not seen that.”

But despite that, Fearey urged Alaskans not to let down their guard, saying the flu could surface at any time. And, because flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, she said anyone who feels sick should get tested for COVID-19.

“If folks have symptoms of an illness at this point, respiratory illness, body aches, fever, cough, we really recommend with one symptom go get tested. Until you get your results back we’d like you to stay home from work, from school, isolate yourself, because of our concerns with transmission.”

Fearey added that it’s not too late to get a flu shot if you haven’t done so. The vaccination is recommended for people six months of age and older.

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