CDC data shows that Flu cases drop 95 percent from the same time last year. Are patients being misdiagnosed as having COVID-19?
Across the United States, the percentage of deaths due to pneumonia, influenza, or COVID-19 has continued to decline since early September, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The seasonal influenza activity in the United States remains low, CDC said in its Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.
However, a careful look at the CDC data raises a lot of important questions and also puts the total number of reported coronavirus cases in doubt. To date, there are 8, 322, 814 confirmed of COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Now let’s dig deeper into the CDC data. At this same period last year, there were 1251 flu cases reported to the CDC during weeks 40-41. The number is about average when compared to previous years. However, in 2020, CDC only reported a total of 60 flu cases during the same period (table below).
The question many people are asking is: Does the practice of good hygiene like washing of hands and social distancing work have anything to do with the sudden drop in flu cases? Or is it possible that patients are being misdiagnosed as having COVID-19? Could it also be that hospitals are reporting more COVID-19 cases and fewer number of Flu cases because they get paid money for every COVID-19 case reported to the federal government? At this point, no one knows for sure. However, we do know from the CDC data that 1.2% of patient visits reported during week 41 compared to the national baseline of 2.6%.
“Nationwide during week 41, only 1.2% of patient visits reported through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet) were due to influenza-like illness (ILI). This percentage is below the national baseline of 2.6%,” CDC said.
As we pointed out earlier, the sudden drop in the number of flu cases may have to do with behavioral changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is how the CDC explained it:
“Healthcare seeking behaviors have changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. While outpatient ILI activity remains low, many people are accessing the healthcare system in alternative settings.”
Even though the number of flu cases has gone down, the CDC said the percentage of deaths during the week 41 has gone up by 1.5% (from a threshold of 5.7% to 7.2%).
“Based on NCHS mortality surveillance data available on October 15, 2020, 7.2% of the deaths occurring during the week ending October 10, 2020 (week 41) were due to pneumonia, influenza, and COVID-19 (PIC). This percentage is above the epidemic threshold of 5.7% for week 41.”