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Published on February 23, 2021

sick woman blowing nose wrapped in blanket

Pandemic Precautions Credited for Low Flu Cases

One bright spot this winter is the record-low influenza infections, hospitalizations and deaths in South Dakota and many other states.

Data from the South Dakota Department of Health show that South Dakota is experiencing record-low influenza infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

In a typical year, South Dakota has 6,478 cases, 612 hospitalizations and 39 deaths.

SD confirmed influenza cases graph
So far this flu season, the state has only 21 confirmed cases, seven hospitalizations and two deaths.

It seems masking and other COVID-19 precautions are the reason.

“Pandemic precautions including social distancing, masking and hand hygiene have not only helped to curb the COVID-19 rate in the Avera footprint, data show that these efforts, along with vaccination, are helping prevent influenza as well, said David Basel, MD, Avera Medical Group Vice President of Quality.

Basel emphasized that these numbers also indicate how easily COVID-19 spreads.

“These pandemic precautions – masking, social distancing – have virtually eliminated the flu, but we’re still experiencing COVID-19 infections. What that tells us is that COVID-19 is highly contagious.”

Other states across the nation are experiencing similarly low rates. All states reported minimal flu activity during the first week of February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu hospitalization rate of 0.6% is also lower than normal for this time of year.

To slow the spread of COVID-19 the CDC recommends people wear masks, follow good hand hygiene, social distance and stay home when sick. These recommendations continue even after people get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some flu symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19. If you are having symptoms, contact your provider or call our hotline at 877-AT-AVERA to discuss your testing options.

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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