By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Pairing the pandemic with the start of flu season was a frightening prospect earlier this year.

A couple months in, the flu hasn’t been as bad as some feared.

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“We haven’t been filling medications specifically to treat influenza yet, like Tamaflu,” said Jenna Bednar, a pharmacist at Setzer Pharmacy in Roseville. “Maybe a couple prescriptions so far, but that’s about it.”

There have been 15 flu hospitalizations this season, and no one’s died of influenza, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

After the new year is when flu problems typically spike, but so far, the numbers are lower than where they’ve been the last five flu seasons.

“We’re wearing masks and doing things that we would not normally do in an influenza season where we’re not also having to deal with COVID,” said Dr. Mark Sannes, an infectious diseases physician with HealthPartners.

COVID fears may also have led to more people getting their flu shots.

“We order [the flu vaccine] based on how much we gave last year, and I think we were probably done giving it in the end of October, so we definitely had a busy immunization season,” Bednar said.

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Medical professionals say the relatively low numbers are not a reason to relax caution.

They still recommend getting a flu vaccine if you haven’t yet. It’s not too late.

“It’s not a year where you want to take the chance that my vaccine isn’t necessary because I’m wearing a mask and washing my hands more,” Sannes said. “We don’t know that that’s the case, so I’d encourage everyone to get their flu shot.”

Bednar says it’s also about more than just helping yourself.

“If we’re not having patients going to the hospital for influenza, that’ll help save resources to treat patients with COVID,” she said.

The CDC says flu activity is unusually low everywhere in the country, but may increase in the coming months.

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David Schuman