Alaska reports far fewer flu cases this season and 2 deaths

A microscopic photo of some cells
Electron microscope view of influenza virus (Wikimedia commons photo)

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has reported fewer than 100 influenza cases in the state during this flu season, down from close to 400 cases at this time last year.

While 13 state residents died with the flu last season, so far this season, only two flu deaths have been recorded in Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News reported on Sunday.

The 2018-19 flu season yielded almost 12 times more flu cases in the state compared to the ongoing 2020-21 season, said Carrie Edmonson, a state nurse epidemiologist who compiles the state’s weekly “flu snapshot” report.

Flu death data for the entire U.S. population is hard to compile quickly, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials maintain a count on how many children die from influenza. One pediatric flu death has been reported so far this season compared to 195 deaths in the 2019-20 season.

During the 2019-2020 influenza season, the CDC estimated that influenza was associated with 38 million illnesses, 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths across the country.

“This is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials such as Edmonson have said that public health orders aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus have also prevented the flu from spreading.

Officials also attribute the flu’s decline to less influenza testing and increased flu vaccinations, the newspaper reported.