Johnson County flu cases drop to nearly zero during COVID-19 restrictions

Flu vaccine

Johnson County's 2020-21 flu season has been extremely mild compared to years past, with fewer than 20 cases reported to the county health department. Officials say there's been much less flu activity thanks to COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Photo credit Daniel Paquet. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Johnson County has seen a significant decrease in seasonal flu cases this year, a trend attributed in large part to public health measures put in place to tamp down the spread of COVID-19.

Since the flu is not a reportable disease in Kansas, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment relies on local health care systems to report confirmed cases.

Since last summer, fewer than 20 influenza cases total have been reported to the county, JCDHE spokesperson Barbara Mitchell said.

That is a remarkable change from the 2019-2020 season, which saw 9,200 reported cases, according to data kept on the county health department’s website.

In fact, in just one week of February last year — before the local onset of COVID-19 — Johnson County recorded 900 influenza cases, a single-week high from the previous five years of reporting.

The dramatic decrease, Mitchell said, can be linked to COVID-19.

“[There’s been] much less flu activity due to mask wearing, social distancing and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” Mitchell said.

Such mitigation practices advised for COVID-19 also work for stopping the spread of the flu, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces, practicing good hand washing and covering mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing.

Deaths from influenza this year have also dropped, according to numbers prepared by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

No flu deaths have been reported in Johnson County for the 2020-21 season.

During the 2019-2020 season, there were 17 deaths caused by flu in Johnson County and 12 deaths during the 2018-19 season.