There’s not much good that comes from a pandemic.

However, state and local health officials are now noting that there is at least one silver lining from all the COVID-19 restrictions being placed on North Carolinians by executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper  – namely, those restrictions are bringing down the number of flu cases in the state. 

Though the common flu has been all but forgotten in the current COVID-19 crisis, the disease kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, but fortunately washing hands, wearing masks, keeping your distance, prohibiting gatherings and other coronavirus precautions are taking their toll on the spread of the flu in North Carolina this year.

On Saturday, Feb. 6, the state released statistics that showed what state officials called a “dramatic” drop in the spread of flu – as well as other respiratory illnesses – due to the restrictions being enforced to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) stated in a Feb. 6 press release that, compared to past years, North Carolina has seen very low levels of influenza and other respiratory viruses.  That’s according to data reported to the department by seven of the state’s largest healthcare systems.

The release also notes that similar trends are occurring nationally and globally.

Only four deaths from the flu have been reported to NCDHHS so far this season.  That compares to 186 deaths in the state last season and more than 200 flu deaths during the 2018-19 flu season.

Also, NCDHHS notes, NC Medicaid has seen more than a 98 percent reduction in expense claims for Tamiflu – a well-known drug used to treat the flu.

Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann said she hadn’t looked at the exact flu numbers for Guilford County in a while, but she added that she knows the precautions for the coronavirus are keeping those numbers in check.

“I really feel like there has been some impact on the flu for this flu season,”  Vann said.

Like COVID-19, influenza can put a major strain on a county’s healthcare system.  According to information from state health officials, the flu causes between 9 million and 45 million illnesses and 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year.