COVID-19 might have even canceled flu season.

As we’ve seen time and time again this year, the COVID-19 pandemic sure has a way of shutting things down. From changes to the Olympics to the Santa Train, it’s been near impossible to sneak a good time in all year.

However, recent data from the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare seems to be suggesting that COVID-19 is also effective at shutting down miserable events too, and I’m not just talking about my class reunion. The dreaded flu season in Japan appears to have been at least delayed by the current epidemic.

The ministry receives report from roughly 5,000 medical institutions around Japan and tallies the number of reported flu cases on a weekly basis. This week ending in 13 December saw only 57 cases in the entire country. Not only is this a much lower than usual number, but it actually went down from the week before by six people.

▼ This not being such a bizarre image in 2020 may have played a part.

What we normally call “an especially bad flu season” is more alarmingly known as a “national epidemic period” in medical terms. This is defined as when the ratio of medical facilities to infected people per week is one-to-one. However, as we can see from the numbers above, we are currently sitting at a ratio of 100 facilities to one patient per week which is far below a national epidemic scenario.

This could be good news if Japan avoids the dreaded double-epidemic of influenza and COVID-19 at the same time, but it still leaves the question of why this trend is happening. Online comments had more than a few opinions on the matter, many of which seem reasonable.

“Probably no one is going to hospitals to report the flu. They don’t want to walk away with something worse.”
“This makes sense since very few people came from outside the country, bringing new strains with them.”
“Everyone says there’s less flu this year, but there’s just more countermeasures like masks and alcohol because of corona.”
“Maybe more people got the flu shot this year, thinking it might help against the coronavirus.”
“It’s interesting that the current measures are keeping the flu at bay, but the coronavirus is still fighting strong.”
“I wonder where these 57 people are distributed around the country.”

According to the ministry, this week flu cases were reported in 21 out of Japan’s 47 prefectures. This is up from 20 last week which suggests that although the cases are down, the virus appears to be on the move.

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases refuses to be optimistic as well, saying that this could easily be a case of the flu season starting late, which has been known to happen some years.  A similar drop in flu cases earlier this year might suggest otherwise, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution, taking note is that the flu virus is indeed out there and keeping on guard is crucial to keeping it under control.

Source: NHK News Web via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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