The strain of a seasonal flu pandemic – but every month
On the plus side, while the scale was larger than normal, the thrust itself was not. The country always sees an increase in flu cases in the winter, and hospitals have in the past handled the strain that even unexpected flu seasons can generate.
There hasn’t been much of a flu season either last winter or this one. The country’s efforts to contain the coronavirus have been effective in stemming flu cases – but less effective in preventing the coronavirus from spreading. Even now, as the ongoing pandemic has receded from the peak caused by the omicron variant, the country has seen more covid-19 deaths since Valentine’s Day than during the entire 2017-2018 flu season. More people have been hospitalized in the past two months than in the same 2017-2018 period.
And it was particularly wrong flu season.
Remember that we are comparing confirmed coronavirus data with valued flu data. In other words, we’re comparing the total number of flu cases and hospitalizations that the CDC says likely occurred with the covid-19-related hospitalizations that were confirmed by lab tests. The CDC only recorded about 30,000 confirmed flu hospitalizations during the 2017-2018 season, fewer than the number of confirmed covid-19 hospitalizations the country saw last week.
We can directly compare the two measurements. You can see the seasonal spikes in flu hospitalizations below — and how the 2017-18 season fares.
Here are those same figures, with the number of hospitalizations linked to covid-19 added. Those little orange dots at the bottom of the graph are the same flu spikes seen above.
What is critically important to recognize here is that while coronavirus cases have risen and fallen in waves, the baseline below which the number has not fallen since this data was first collected ( in the summer of 2020) is well above the peaks observed in the past. flu seasons.
Another measure of the toll of flu seasons is the number of deaths. Each year, a number of deaths from influenza and pneumonia are expected to rise and fall with the seasons. During bad flu seasons, such as 2017-2018, the number of deaths from influenza and pneumonia far exceeds this expectation.
But then we include deaths from covid-19.
Again, the balance sheet is not only well above the expected level, but has been consistently above that level for the past two years. During the 2017-2018 flu season, just over 133,000 deaths from influenza and pneumonia were recorded. That’s fewer deaths than we’ve seen in the past two months from influenza, pneumonia, and covid-19.
Not all of these deaths occur in hospitals, but it’s safe to assume that most do. In other words, the pressure is not just on the ability of hospitals to handle incoming patients, but on the cost of losing them, especially when many of those patients could have avoided serious complications by getting vaccinated. Add to that misinformation, such as that ivermectin was not useless in preventing serious illnesses, and the pressure on health care providers only increases.
Things are better than two months ago. That doesn’t mean things are necessarily good. With a new, more contagious version of the omicron variant making up a growing share of cases in the country, there’s also no guarantee that things will continue to improve.
We all hope the worst is behind us. But the present is always a huge constraint.