Viral respiratory illnesses, such as influenza (the flu), are not always considered serious. However, they can — and do — pose a significant public health threat both worldwide and in the United States.
Each year, the burden of flu varies widely based on numerous factors, including:
The viral strains that are circulating
When cases peak during the year
How effective the vaccine is
How many people are vaccinated
Despite the unpredictability of the flu, the World Health Organization estimates that there are 1 billion cases of influenza per year globally, of which 3 to 5 million cases are severe, contributing to hundreds of thousands of flu-related deaths annually.
In the U.S., seasonal influenza viruses are detected year-round but are typically most common during the fall and winter, starting in October and peaking between December and February.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — the national agency responsible for flu surveillance — between 2010 and 2020 alone there were:
Nine to 41 million flu cases per year
140,000 to 710,000 flu-related hospitalizations per year
12,000 to 52,000 flu-related deaths per year
In addition to the health burdens of seasonal flu, there are significant economic tolls as well. Along with lost productivity from millions of missed days at work and school, influenza directly costs the U.S. health care system billions of dollars each year.
THE EFFECT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON FLU SEASON
There hasn’t been much feel-good news with COVID-19, which was officially declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020. But there is one silver lining: Flu activity was unusually low in 2020 and 2021.
The CDC reported a drastic reduction in flu cases during the first year of the pandemic when many restrictions were put into place to help stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Mitigation efforts included stay-at-home work, mask mandates, reduced travel, school closures, physical distancing and increased ventilation indoors.
Coupled with a record number of influenza vaccine doses (193.8 million) being distributed, CDC data shows that of the 818,939 respiratory specimens tested by U.S. clinical labs, only 1,675 (or 0.2%) were positive for influenza. This sharply contrasts with the three flu seasons before the pandemic when the proportion of respiratory specimens testing positive peaked between 26.2% and 30.23%. The bottom line: We avoided the flu and all that comes with it during the first full flu season under COVID-19.
LOOKING AHEAD TO FUTURE FLU SEASONS
So now that businesses and schools have largely reopened and mask mandates and other restrictions have been retired, it is likely that the burden of flu in the forthcoming 2022–2023 flu season, which starts soon, will be more in line with previous years.
That is why now is the time to be proactive and prioritize cleaner indoor air.
FIGHTING FLU WITH CLEANER INDOOR AIR
There are several ways to improve indoor air quality, with experts recommending a multilayered strategy.
Needlepoint bipolar ionization (NPBI™) represents one proactive approach that can help reduce the concentration of viral particles in the air. Data from third-party testing* of NPBI’s effect on influenza A and B show:
An overall capability to reduce aerosolized influenza A viruses faster than the natural loss rates
A 99.78% net reduction in active influenza A in the air after one hour
An 85.44% net reduction in active influenza B in the air after one hour**
*Third-party testing was jointly executed and paid for by GPS.
**The GPS Air products have not been evaluated by the FDA as medical devices and, therefore, are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent infections or diseases caused by certain viruses and bacteria.