This is the time of year when flu season usually gets really bad in New Jersey, with most if not all parts of the state reporting high levels of influenza activity.

But that’s not the case this year.

“Statewide we’re seeing low activity levels for influenza-like illness, and actually this is fairly representative of what we’re seeing throughout the country,” said Dr. Tina Tan, the state's epidemiologist.

She said it’s possible this could be the first recorded flu season where influenza levels remain low throughout the entire winter.

Tan noted that even though everyone is hyper-focused on COVID-19, “providers are testing for a slew of respiratory viruses. There definitely is extensive testing going on for influenza, but there are very few flu viruses that are actually being detected.”

Tan said you don’t have to be a medical genius to understand what’s going on here.

“We know what we’re doing right now to mitigate COVID-19 will also help mitigate other respiratory viral illnesses such as influenza," she said/

“As long as you’re social distancing, washing your hands, wearing masks, that also helps to prevent the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses.”

In the 2019-20 flu season in the United States, the influenza virus killed 22,000. By contrast, last year the coronavirus killed more than 380,000 Americans.

Tan said that if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, it’s not too late to do so and you should seriously consider it.

“We tend to forget that every single year there are hospitalizations and deaths that are associated with influenza,” she said. “And flu can impact younger individuals, particularly very young kids very severely and can result in death, so they should get flu shots as well.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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