For the past two years, we’ve been hyperaware of symptoms like sneezing, fever, sore throat, and aches. We’ve been told it’s safe to assume that if we’re experiencing these, the chances are high that we’ve caught COVID. However, while the COVID-19 pandemic is still around and the disease is still circulating, depending on where you live there’s also a high probability that if you have these symptoms, you have the flu. Yes, in May. Here’s why.
According to MassLive, cases of influenza have been on the rise in Massachusetts for the past two months. The weekly flu report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) categorizes the severity of the flu in the state to be “moderate,” but several regions have risen to the “high” severity. Flu cases are also on the rise in New Mexico, Colorado, Puerto Rico, and New York, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We’ve not seen much activity from influenza over the past few years since we’ve put in measures to keep the spread of COVID down. Those same measures helped keep the number of flu cases near non-existent, too. Until now.
According to the weekly flu report from the DPH, levels of confirmed cases of the flu are rising at a time when they typically decline. Data provided from the state show that reports of influenza-like symptoms are higher than the number of flu cases reported during the 2020-2021 flu season but lower than the two years before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flu cases began rising around the same time COVID-19 cases started going up, too — around the start of March. It was around that time that many of the COVID-19 protocols in place to reduce the spread started to disappear. Mask mandates were dropped, capacity limits were increased, and that’s probably why we’ve seen an increase in the flu, too.
“Most of us have thought that this last end-of-season smoldering, slightly increasing number of cases here and there is probably due to people taking off their masks, going out to group activities, going indoors to restaurants, worship services, concerts, starting to go back in-person in business — all of those kinds of activities are still presenting some opportunities for this respiratory virus to be spread,” William Schaffner, M.D., the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told Healthline.
This week alone, cases of the flu in Massachusetts have increased by 27%. Experts estimate the real number to be higher because not a lot of people are getting tested for the flu.