BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, masking up, staying socially distanced, and washing our hands a little extra have become expected.
But now, doctors say those precautions have also helped lower illnesses across-the-board.
Doctors at Beaufort Memorial are now saying over a year into the pandemic, COVID precautions are limiting the spread of several diseases across generations.
Emergency rooms and pediatric offices normally are full of patients sniffling and coughing from some type of flu or cold, but not this year.
“We’ve seen virtually no influenza. All to the credit of masks and social distancing,” said Dr. Stephen Larson, Emergency Medicine.
“We have not seen any flu. Flu completely disappeared,” Dr. Joseph Floyd, Pediatrician.
COVID precautions means doctors at Beaufort Memorial have had a very different year.
“It really highlights how much more contagious the coronavirus and frankly more deadly it is,” Dr. Larson said.
Normally the hospital would see 100 or more patients due to flu complications. This year, that number has dwindled in adults.
“I mean we’ve seen a handful, maybe a dozen or so. But it is not uncommon in January for us to have 200 patients come into the emergency department - a third of them by influenza,” Dr. Larson said.
And in children.
“Normally we would admit 10 to 15 children a month into the hospital. This year - zero,” Dr. Floyd said.
Doctors say it’s thanks to all of the COVID precautions people have adopted. And the evidence backing masking speaks for itself.
“I think we can learn from this from a public health standpoint. We will get a lot better at avoiding continuous respiratory viruses,” Dr. Larson said.
Pediatricians are crediting precautions taken in schools for keeping children safe from the flu and COVID-19.
“For our children, COVID has not been an illness. Not one to worry about,” Dr. Floyd said.
They say on their end, keeping children healthy means everything is being done correctly.
“It’s been one of our best years,” Dr. Floyd said.
Here’s a quick look at the flu season so far in Georgia. Keep in mind, the season typically lasts until the middle of May.
The most recent data from the Department of Public Health is from April 17. It shows very few people testing positive for the flu this season with just two deaths reported and 36 people hospitalized.
Compare that to data from last year - 94 deaths were reported for the season on the last data points to come out. Those are from May 2020.
More than 25,000 people were hospitalized due to the flu for the 2019-2020 season.
The Department of Public Health says all these cases were lab-confirmed cases of the flu.