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Colorado sees dramatic drop in flu hospitalizations

With safety measures in place for COVID, flu hospitalizations stand in the double digits this year, compared to thousands in years past.

COLORADO, USA — While COVID-19 transmission in Colorado has had its highs and lows over the past year, other illnesses remain inactive across the state and country. 

One silver lining of the pandemic is that the safety measures in place for COVID has caused there to be hardly any flu hospitalizations in Colorado this season.

Data on Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) website shows the state has had only 24 hospitalizations for the flu.

For reference, here are hospitalization numbers from past flu seasons: 

  • 2019-2020 flu season: 3,546 hospitalizations 
  • 2018-2019 flu season: 3,832 hospitalizations
  • 2017-2018 flu season: 4,650 hospitalizations
  • 2016-2017 flu season: 3,340 hospitalizations

Data also shows that there haven’t been any outbreaks of the flu in long-term care facilities, and no pediatric deaths. There is also currently no predominant flu strain this year.

In a virtual press conference held by CDPHE Feb. 25, they confirmed Colorado has seen an increase in their flu vaccination rate this year by 13%.

9Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli said this could also mean good news for the next flu season.

“The good news is, by reducing the number of flu infections that we've had this year we're actually going to make the flu less likely to mutate,” Dr. Kohli said.

RELATED: US has 'lowest flu season' on record during COVID pandemic

Just as we've seen different variants of COVID appear, like the California COVID strain, the flu is also able to mutate and have different strains. Low virus transmission this year could slow that.

And less mutating could lead to a more effective flu vaccine in the next season.

"Hopefully next year, those mutations won't stray very far from what we saw this year and our vaccines for the flu next year can therefore be even better because we'll know what we're dealing with and they'll be likely to be more effective,” Dr. Kohli said.

RELATED: Annual COVID shots may become as commonplace as flu shots

The low flu hospitalizations have also helped out the state in creating more capacity to care for COVID patients.

“It's not taxed our testing resources, because when somebody comes in with a flu-like illness, you really have to test them both for COVID and for flu,” Dr. Kohli said. “And because we have such little flu numbers this year, we can really focus our efforts on making sure that that COVID tests get done.”