Health officials say a dramatic drop in cases of influenza in 2020 is due in large part to the safety protocols in place to stop the spread of COVID-19.

According to the Maine CDC, there were just over 900 cases of influenza in 2019, with 56 people hospitalized and four who died. 2020's statistics state that 47 people were diagnosed with the flu, and there were no hospitalizations or deaths. That's a difference of about 95%, in just one year.

All the things we're doing to prevent sharing COVID-19 are being credited with also stopping the spread of the flu. Both illnesses are spread through droplets, from things like coughing and sneezing, so health officials have said, for years, that washing hands often and covering your cough would help you from getting sick or spreading the illness. Add in the socially distancing and wearing masks and we're doing a pretty great job of keeping Maine healthy.

It's something we've practiced at the radio stations for years. We have a lot of shared surfaces so, during cold/flu season, we keep sanitizing wipes in the studios and wipe everything down at the end of our shifts. It's worked pretty well, overall. Now, those measures have been stepped up, as added protection.

Symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Dry Cough
  • Headache
  • Muscle Aches
  • Fatigue

Dr. Nirav Shah, of the Maine CDC, says the best defense against the flu is the flu shot, which is readily available now. While it won't totally prevent you from catching the flu, it will greatly diminish the symptoms, Think two days instead of two weeks. He says the worst-case scenario would be to catch the flu and COVID-19, giving your body more than it can handle. So, while we wait for the COVID vaccine to become readily available, residents can at least protect themselves against the flu.

Find more information on the Maine Flu website.

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