What The Coronavirus Could Mean For The 2020 Flu Season

Depending on what part of the world you live in there's a decent chance you're reading this from self-isolation due to coronavirus. As millions across the globe quarantine themselves to avoid the spread of the virus, for many it won't be the first time they're avoiding work and other public places. In addition to the novel coronavirus, one we are already very familiar with, the flu, had a big showing in the 2019-2020 fall and winter seasons.

While it wasn't the worst flu season on record, the virus still wreaked more havoc in the US than normal. Emily Martin, an Associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, explained to NPR that infections got an early start this year. So far she estimated that there were "between 30 and 40 million illnesses in the United States," and CDC reports estimate that around 22,000 died of possible flu related causes in the US this season. Both numbers do not necessarily represent flu infections, but rather patients who exhibited flu-like symptoms.

The beginning of spring typically sees a reduction in flu-like infections, but with the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe could we see a late season resurgence?

Flu season may not be over yet

As things stand now reported instances of flu are on the decline in the US after two peaks of activity this season. According to a March 11th, 2020 report by AccuWeather flu cases had declined for the third week in a row, from accounting for 5.5% of visits to healthcare providers to 5.3% of visits. However, that decline hasn't been steady across the country. While 34 states have reported a slow down in flu activity, 24 states are still experiencing higher than average instances of cases.

Dr. Bryan Lewis of the University of Virginia's Biocomplexity Institute told AccuWeather, "With the COVID-19 virus circulating and the potential to cause a significant number of infections, we may see a third peak in the influenza-like activity surveillance used to monitor the flu season."

According to AccuWeather areas expected to see a sustained continuation of flu-like activity include the states in the north, from the Pacific Northwest through the Midwest and to the northeast. Meanwhile, the south and mid-Atlantic regions are expected to see their levels decline to pre-flu season rates.