COVID-19 is the Headline, but Has Influenza Largely Disappeared?
I always acccepted that the flu was a serious threat, especially having having had two very serious pulmonary infections in my lifetime. Accordingly, I dutifully took my flu vaccine most of my life as per the fearmongering tradition each and every year (I’ve skipped it several years in the past decade, to no ill effect).
But has the flu been a real threat substantiated by hard science?
Have you ever thought you had influenza and been tested for it? Not me, and not anyone I know. I’ve never even heard of such testing. It exists as per the CDC site, but it’s strangely absent from public discussion and seemingly rarely used except in severe cases.
Death from flu?
Each year we’ve been told that “influenza kills 40K to 60K Americans”. In truth, flu deaths are based on models based on assumptions. AFAIK there isn’t any solid scientific data to support the claims, just computer models based on assumptions. Models are for persuasion and have no scientific validity. At best, they can be the basis of a hypothesis to be tested.
If someone is hospitalized and dies, tests positive for COVID, what other factors might have been involved such as influenze and/or viral/bacterial pneumonia? And if more than one factor, what is the cause of death? The presumptive cause of death will surely be COVID, which does not qualify as science. And hospitals get paid more for COVID patients.
Ad-hoc influenza data
As for influenza data, ad-hoc testing and self-selection do not qualify flu data as science. Yet this is what recommendations and policies are based upon.
Outpatient Illness Surveillance
Please note, the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet) monitors outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI), not laboratory-confirmed influenza, and as such, will capture visits due to other respiratory pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2, that present with similar symptoms. In addition, healthcare-seeking behaviors have changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are accessing the healthcare system in alternative settings, which may or may not be captured as a part of ILINet. Therefore, ILI data, including ILI activity levels, should be interpreted with extreme caution. It is particularly important at this time to evaluate syndromic surveillance data, including that from ILINet, in the context of other sources of surveillance data to obtain a complete and accurate picture of both influenza and COVID-19 activity. CDC is tracking the COVID-19 pandemic in a weekly publication called COVIDView.
Why have a website with swiss-cheese data, and fail to provide a direct link to the “complete and accurate picture”?
Why so little influenza this year?
Flu is not in the news, not even a topic of discussion in the public sphere. Yet here we are in a raging COVID pandemic (allegedly), and influenza is being very kind to us this year. Why?
From what I can tell, the influenze test data is highly suspect—3 positives out of 14937 tests is so low (0.02%) that all of them could be false positives. No baseline rate or false postitive rate is given in the summary ("Public Health Laboratories"), which further degrades credibility. What kind of test for anything can be so good that a 0.02% positive rate could be deemed anything but junk data?
Suppose you were infected with the flu. How is this distinguished from a false positive COVID test, which is probable given the false positive rate and low baseline rate.
Perhaps masking and lockdowns and social distancing are effective for influenza as a bonus? I would accept that idea fairly easily, but maybe it is not enough—how could COVID be raging yet influenza at such a low level if those mitigating behavioral factors are in play for both?
Could it be that masks, social distancing and lockdowns work for influenza but not for COVID? Is that even a credible hypothesis? Or maybe influenza is wimpy this year, by lucky happenstance. Or maybe something fishy is going on.
The fact is that masks and lockdowns do NOT explain the lack of the flu. COVID-19 has displaced the flu!
Seasonal influenza activity in the United States remains lower than usual for this time of year