Huge drop in flu deaths this year 'could be because vulnerable people died of Covid instead'

FEWER people appear to be dying of the flu so far this season—but it may be because the must vulnerable have already died of the coronavirus. 

Influenza deaths have dropped two-thirds from the federal five-year average, which was 17 for the week ending Oct. 17, the New York Post reported on Saturday.

Federal estimates showed no flu deaths for the same week this year, and the state of New York and New York City also reported no deaths, which is the same as their five-year averages for the week.

The United Kingdom has experienced a similar decline, with 1,132 flu and pneumonia deaths last month, a 28 percent dip from the country’s five-year monthly average. 

The UK’s Office of National Statistics “thinks the drop is because medically-vulnerable Brits who would have died this fall from flu and pneumonia instead died this spring from the coronavirus,” the Post wrote. 

However, British statistician Kevin McConway told the newspaper he is skeptical about “whether it’s the whole story,” because the flu and pneumonia are airborne like Covid-19 and pandemic safety guidelines would presumably lessen their effects too. 

New York state Department of Health spokesman Jeffrey Hammond shared a similar view.

“Wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing, and all the other measures put in place to slow the coronavirus should also slow the flu and other viruses,” Hammond told the Post. 

With the flu season only a few weeks underway, NYC Health Department spokesman Michael Lanza told the newspaper that “it’s too early to make any predictions on severity.”

Health officials have been warning Americans that the flu along with Covid-19 could mean a double whammy of illness and overwhelm hospitals. 

While that may not be shaping up, at least just yet, the US on Friday passed its last record of coronavirus cases, signaling a potentially rough winter ahead. 

The US’s new Covid-19 cases count on Friday was 83,700, surpassing the last record of about 77,300 cases on July 16, data from Johns Hopkins University showed. 

"I think we're in for a very hard stretch here," former US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Friday. 

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"I think the winter is going to be very difficult."

Also on Friday, the country’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci told MSNBC that more coronavirus hospitalizations will lead to more deaths.  

"When you enter the season of the cooler months of the fall and the colder months of the winter, where a lot of activity, out of necessity, is going to be inside as opposed to outside, that's a difficult and challenging situation to be in because you have a couple of factors against you," Fauci said.

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