By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s influenza season appears to be off to a mild start, with cases up just slightly this year over last year but markedly lower than prior flu seasons.
According to the weekly influenza report from Wyoming Department of Health, the number of flu cases reported in the state fell from 200 during the first week in January to just over 100 at the last reporting on Jan. 14.
By comparision, during the same period in 2019, a little less than 600 influenza cases were reported. That year, case numbers spiked at more than 1,400 cases by the end of February.
Flu season runs from October through May.
Influenza case numbers were not posted for the 2020-21 season, according to Kim Deti, public information officer for WDH, because the state did not experience significant flu activity last season.
This year, WDH has reported seeing cases of both Influenza A and B virus circulating, with the dominant strand being Flu A (H3N2). Cases have been reported in 21 of Wyoming’s 23 counties.
Deti cautioned against putting too much stock in these numbers, however, given the fact that some medical providers do not consistently report influenza cases to WDH and few patients get tested for the illness.
“The numbers do not show a total picture. With flu, they never have,” she said, noting that comparing reported cases of influenza from season to season or week to week may not be valid given the many factors influencing both testing and reporting.
However, it is certain that Wyoming is currently experiencing low levels of influenza activity this season compared to previous years, Deti said.
Deti said that the decrease in flu activity last season in Wyoming mirrored a decline in flu cases seen nationally. Many experts attributed the decline in 2020-21 to COVID-19 related precautions such as traveling less, attending fewer public events and other public health precautions.
“For the 2019-20 flu season, activity was running at high levels until the pandemic began and people started taking the precautions we all remember,” she said in an email to Cowboy State Daily. “Then it dropped.”
WDH can’t predict what the rest of the flu season will look like, Deti added, because it’s relatively early in the season.
Since the beginning of this year’s flu season, 22 Wyoming residents have died of pneumonia and influenza-related illnesses.