(NEXSTAR) — The flu is circulating at such low levels, there was only one pediatric death reported during the 2020-2021 influenza season, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
That number is sharply lower than in years past, a striking deviation from the dozens of pediatric deaths in other recent years.
During the 2019-2020 flu season, nearly 200 children died of the flu. Officials recorded 144 pediatric deaths during the 2018-2019 flu season and 188 deaths in the season before that.
During this year’s flu season, which begins Oct. 1 and lasts until Feb. 20, hospitalizations for flu patients of all ages have fallen sharply.
“Fourteen states reported 193 laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalizations for an overall cumulative hospitalization rate of 0.7 per 100,000 population,” according to Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network data. “This is much lower than average for this point in the season and lower than rates for any season since routine data collection began in 2005, including the low severity 2011-12 season.”
Some experts are trying to determine the cause of the flu all but disappearing in the U.S.
Experts say that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus — mask wearing, social distancing, and virtual schooling — were a big factor in preventing a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19. A push to get more people vaccinated against flu probably helped, too, as did fewer people traveling, they say.
Another possible explanation: The coronavirus has essentially muscled aside flu and other bugs that are more common in the fall and winter. Scientists don’t fully understand the mechanism behind that, but it would be consistent with patterns seen when certain flu strains predominate over others, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu expert at the University of Michigan.
Nationally, “this is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the CDC.
Others point to increased flu vaccinations and a decrease in world travel.
University of Michigan flu expert Dr. Arnold Monto, told the Associated Press in February that COVID-19 might have muscled the virus aside this fall and winter. How exactly that works is not yet full understood, but Monto said it fits the patterns doctors see when certain flu strains diminish the reach of others.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.