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Flu numbers down over 90% thanks to record vaccinations, increased COVID-19 prevention measures

Unity Point Health says at this time last year, they had seen over 300 flu cases. This year, they've barely seen 20.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — For almost a year, coronavirus has been the top story around the world, and for a while, there were concerns of a "twin-demic" once the flu season rolled around. 

But that hasn't been the case. 

"Thankfully the fears have not come to pass and I'm really glad to say that," remarked Dr. Toyosi Olutade, chief medical officer of Unity Point Health. "I mean, this time last year, we had over 300 flu cases already. This year it's just been about 20, 22 so far." 

He says during past winters, most of Unity Point's beds were occupied by flu patients. 

"You're looking at about 20-25% of our beds will be occupied by people with flu or complications related to the flu," he said. If that would have happened this year, in hospitals already overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients, it would have been disastrous. 

RELATED: THIS WEEK: The long wait for your shot at the vaccine

Instead, this season's few flu cases have helped keep hospital beds and raspatory machines open for those suffering from the Coronavirus. 

According to Dr. Olutade, there are two main reasons our area hasn't seen a spike in the flu. It turns out precautionary measures against Covid-19, such as increased hand washing, wearing masks, and social distancing, are all great ways to stop the spread of the flu. 

Record high flu shots and vaccinations were the other huge factor in bringing this year's case numbers down. Dr. Olutade gave "big kudos" to the community, for stepping up and participating in the vaccination effort. He also says within the hospital, every single person who came into the emergency room was offered a flu shot - for the first time ever. That, he says, dramatically increased the amount of vaccines administered in our area, and helped bring the positivity rates to record lows. 

"Percent positivity of all the tests for the flu so far have been less than 1%," said Dr. Olutade. 

Now looking ahead, he says he's never one to "waste a crisis," and the entire hospital system is hopeful this year's lessons can be carried out in future flu seasons. That would mean vaccination campaigns every year, and perhaps a continued usage of masks for people who feel sick. All of that, he says, could result in fewer hospitalizations for years to come. 

Typically, peak flu season is from January to March, so Unity Point warns that it's vital to maintain Covid-19 safety precautions - both to protect from the virus, as well as continuing our area's low flu positivity rates. 

RELATED: Quad Cities hospital systems, local organizations partner together to push vaccination education to Black and Brown communities

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