Flu shot bandage. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The safety measures required to prevent coronavirus infections have a silver lining — they’re also stopping the seasonal flu.

A total of 18 influenza cases have been reported in San Diego County so far this season compared to 400 at the same time last year.

And there haven’t been any flu deaths, compared to three at this time last year. Over the last flu season, 108 died in the county from influenza.

County health officials said Wednesday they believe this is the result of the preventive measures San Diegans are taking to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“When the stay-at-home order was issued last season, flu cases dropped dramatically. We’re seeing the same trend this season, and we hope it continues,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “It’s clear that wearing a face covering, maintaining social distance, avoiding large crowds and taking other preventative measures are also helping to slow the spread of influenza.”

A greater number of San Diegans also are getting vaccinated this season. To date, nearly 819,000 people have received flu shots compared to 746,000 at the same time last year. A total of 1.2 million people got a flu shot last season, the highest on record.

“San Diegans are stepping up to get vaccinated against influenza and that is also a good thing,” Wooten said. “A flu shot helps to lower the risk of San Diegans getting influenza and the novel coronavirus at the same time and prevent the local health care system from being overwhelmed.”

Influenza caused the world’s last great pandemic, killing 675,000 people in the United States and 50 million worldwide in 1918-19.

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