August 18, 2020 at 5:36 AM EDT
Flu was all but eliminated in South Africa this year. Coronavirus is to thank.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The pandemic has made a lot of bad things worse, but South Africa’s near-total lack of a flu season this year stands out as a rare positive effect.
The country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has three laboratories that would normally record more than 1,000 cases of flu between April and August, winter in the southern hemisphere. As the 2020 season ends, they have recorded just one.
“It is a totally unprecedented event to not see flu,” said Cheryl Cohen, who leads NICD’s respiratory disease team. While she and other experts in South Africa said some were certainly staying home and not reporting mild sicknesses, they all agreed that South Africa basically skipped its flu season — and that the coronavirus is to thank.
By Lesley Wroughton and Max Bearak