Masking, social distancing cut flu cases among children by 99% in Ohio, study finds

Widespread use of facemasks and social distancing to control COVID-19 cut the spread of flu among children by 99% in 2020-21 winter season in northern Ohio — similar to what happened in most of the country — an analysis presented Friday during the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition found.

People who practiced frequent hand hygiene and were able to self-isolate during the height of the pandemic in the United States also helped contain the flu, as well as respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, the researchers said.

Before COVID-19, the peak incidence of the influenza A virus among children in the area surrounding Akron Children’s Hospital, where the research was conducted, occurred in February during both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 flu seasons.

In February 2019, 41% of nose and throat swab samples tested came back positive for the virus, while in February 2020, 24% came back positive, the data showed.

However, during the 2020-21 winter season, only two isolated cases of Influenza B virus and no cases of Influenza A virus were detected among Akron Children’s patients, a finding that is similar to what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that much of the United States experienced.

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