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Doctors say flu, other infectious diseases down since implementation of social distancing

Social distancing appears to be curbing not just the coronavirus, but other diseases as well

ST. LOUIS — Social distancing appears to be doing more than just flattening the coronavirus curve. It's also affecting the number of influenza cases right here in the St. Louis region.

"Annually we have 30 to 50 thousand influenza deaths, so I think that's one thing and we were on pace to be in that ballpark," Dr. Jason Newland, an infectious disease doctor for Washington University said.

"We essentially saw a dramatic drop in the number of influenza cases," Newland said.

The CDC confirmed influenza cases are sharply dropping.

Newland said the term "social distancing" was used for the flu pandemic of 1918, long before COVID-19 came around.

"Social distancing… community mitigation strategies like not having social gatherings... those sorts of things became the norm, that's how you had to stop the spread," Newland said.

Those 1918 guidelines holding true in fighting the coronavirus in 2020.

"Influenza went away because we got away from each other. We didn't have the children in school passing it to each other and taking it home to give to our parents and our loved ones," Newland said. "We actually saw that this kind of went away."

And it's not just influenza that social distancing is helping.

"There's some other notions that we're seeing less of other infectious diseases, potentially things not related to COVID-19, like maybe some bone infections or some pneumonia," Newland said.

Newland made it clear though, that we should not be comparing the two viruses.

"I hope everybody hears this piece, which is number one. We should be getting our influenza vaccine and we should think about that just like when we have our coronavirus vaccine," Newland said. "We're all going to want to get a coronavirus vaccine because no one wants to live like this for a long time."

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