Flu numbers crater

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Posted March 5, 2021 | By Brendan Farrell, Ocala Gazette

While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been widespread, Marion County has seen a sharp decrease in ER visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) thanks to social distancing and precautions against COVID-19, according to local health officials. 

Marion County averaged 300 visits per week for the flu in February of 2019 and 276.75 per week last February. This year, as residents socially distanced and wore masks, the county reported just 26.33 visits per week in February. 

It’s a trend seen since the start of the pandemic. In 2020, the county had 289.6 ILI-related ER visits per week in January and 276.75 per week in February. However, ER visits plummeted to 124 per week in March. 

“We’ve seen much lower numbers coming out of all these other areas, and if you look at it, a big part to consider is because of mitigation practices,” said Mark Lander, Florida Department of Health in Marion County administrator. “We’ve been a world that’s been masking, social distancing and these measures are all measures to control COVID typically can work against the flu virus.”

Flu numbers are down across the board in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s weekly influenza surveillance report for the week ending on Feb. 20, all 50 states were reporting minimal flu activity. 

The US has also seen high numbers of people seeking flu vaccines. As of Feb. 12, 193.7 million flu vaccines have been distributed across the country, according to the CDC. 

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