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Flu, RSV cases down in the Omaha-metro

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 4:00 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - For months health experts have been warning of an increase of both COVID-19 cases and the flu.

We are now in the midst of the typical flu season.

So, what exactly are local health care leaders seeing?

The answer may surprise you.

“We just haven’t seen any influenza, haven’t seen any RSV, that I’m aware of. We just aren’t seeing those viruses right now,” says Dr. Trevor Van Schooneveld, UNMC associate professor of infectious disease.

This time last year, CHI Health clinics were seeing nearly 1,300 cases of influenza per week.

A year later, the difference is staggering.

So far this month, clinics are averaging about 19 cases of the flu per week.

Experts say respiratory illnesses like the flu and RSV are virtually non-existent in our community right now.

Dr. Trevor Van Schooneveld, UNMC associate professor of infectious disease

“We have these tests that look for all of these viruses at once. We just aren’t seeing flu and RSV. Certainly, if you don’t look for it, you won’t find it. But almost all of our COVID tests look for influenza as well,” says Dr. Van Schooneveld.

Leaders with UNMC and CHI Health say there are a few factors that are playing to these low numbers.

They say an uptick in people getting vaccinated against the flu may be playing a role.

But, they believe all the measures the community is taking to prevent COVID-19 from spreading is preventing the other viruses from spreading, too.

“Our understanding of why is because we are doing all the things for years we’ve told people to do. But, none of us ever did. We are not going to work when we are sick and coughing on our friends and our neighbors and co-workers. We are wearings masks to limit the spread of germs on the handle of the grocery cart,” says Dr. Michael Schooff, CHI Health primary care medical director

There is some more good news, doctors say they think the lessons learned during the pandemic may carry on for years to come.

“I think we might find for many years after this that we may do some of that during January of next year we may distance ourselves more, wash our hands more, wear a mask if we are going to get in a crowded space just so we don’t get colds,” says Dr. Schooff.

Doctors say COVID-19 does spread easier than the flu or RSV.

While they are still very much so dealing with COVID-19 they say it is helping not to have hospitalizations from the flu.

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