BANGOR – The flu generally spreads rapidly throughout the winter months, but that virus is not as common this year.
“We’re simply just not seeing it,” said Andrew Donovan, an infection preventionist at St. Joseph Hospital. “That really correlates with where the rest of the state, country and really globally what we’re seeing with regards to influenza.”
Donovan said mask wearing and other COVID-19 prevention measures have attributed to the decrease in flu cases.
“Things like social distancing, masking particularly, staying home when you’re sick, all of those things,” Donovan said. “Of course hand hygiene is of utmost importance.”
According to Donovan, the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are very similar, so they’ve been testing patients for both along with other common viruses.
“Things like fever, a cough,” Donovan said. “Influenza, you’ll experience more commonly sore throat, which you may not with COVID-19. Body aches, feeling tired, all those things are pretty similar between influenza and COVID-19.”
Donovan believes COVID-19 has established the importance of basic infection prevention habits, specifically washing your hands frequently and staying home when you’re sick.
“There was a little bit more of a tolerance for going to work if you may have had the sniffles before, where as I think COVID preparations has really honed in on the fact that people should stay home when they’re feeling ill,” Donovan said.
This has proven that influenza can be controlled differently according to Donovan.
“As difficult as some of these measures may be as far as being socially distanced and certainly masking can be inconvenient, ensuring that we continue that beyond the COVID-19 experience will help protect those who are most vulnerable in our population from influenza,” Donovan said.