Health officials: Low flu cases a promising sign COVID guidelines are working

Of nearly 3,000 flu tests administered in North Carolina last week, only one came back positive.
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 8:31 PM EST
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - According to state health data, flu cases are practically non-existent in North Carolina this year, and health officials say COVID guidelines could be the reason.

12,076 North Carolinians during the last flu season tested positive for the influenza virus. This year, only 29 people in the state have contracted the illness. According to state health data, only one person in the state tested positive for the virus of nearly 3,000 tests administered last week.

It’s a promising sign, health officials say, that COVID guidelines not only work to slow the spread of COVID-19 but also of the far-less contagious influenza virus.

“A lot of the reason that we’re seeing a decrease in cases is that people are being more diligent about hand-washing, keeping social distance, and wearing masks,” said Jones County Health Director Ann Pike. “People have gotten their flu shots this year, as they usually do. I think they’re using that as hopefully trying to help them prevent COVID illness.”

Deaths in the state are at an all-time low, as well. So far, five people have been confirmed to have died from influenza this season. That’s compared to last season’s death toll of 186.

Health officials are counting it as a win for hospitals, like CarolinaEast Medical Center, concerned at the beginning of the season. The prevalence of the flu and the coronavirus could overwhelm their systems.

“Children haven’t been in school for a number of months, and children often carry the flu virus,” said CarolinaEast Vice President of Medical Affairs Ronald May. “But, we’re not seeing a rare patient by any means. We’re still admitting almost every day at least a couple of COVID-positive patients.”

It’s protocol at the hospital to test patients for both viruses if symptoms don’t necessarily lend to one another. According to health officials, it is possible to test positive for both influenza and the coronavirus, but unlikely a positive COVID test was actually a positive flu case.

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