As Arizona flu cases slightly increase, the season is far below average

While the flu can be unpredictable, doctors say the best way to avoid complications, or a severe illness, is to get a flu shot. And it’s not too late.
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 8:50 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - As COVID-19 cases dwindle, Valley experts are noticing another unusual trend as we near spring: a slight uptick in flu cases.

“I’ve seen it as early as October, November,” said Dr. Andrew Caroll. “But most of the time in the state of Arizona, we start to see an uptick in flu cases in late December.”

However, Dr. Carroll says his practice in the Phoenix area is noticing positive after positive Influenza A tests as we hit mid-March. “People with body aches and fever. And cough,” he said. “We were thinking COVID before. Now we’re having to include testing for flu because that’s what we’re starting to pick up on.”

As folks go about their normal activities and some mask requirements go away, the Arizona Department of Health Services also confirms a slight increase in flu cases, but not a spike as nearly as pronounced as earlier this season. It reports a 15% increase in flu cases this week compared to last week, which boils down to about a dozen cases.

“We don’t typically see two peaks in a single influenza season,” said Jessica Rigler with AZDHS.

Still, though, this flu season is far below average. AZDHS says Arizona is nearing 7,000 flu cases this season. The state didn’t even hit 900 last year, but the average can be up to 17,000 total. Experts say last flu season was very, very mild as COVID-19 was circulating. They think the lower flu numbers could be because COVID was the dominant virus, edging influenza out as the most common. And our behaviors drastically changed.

“In addition, people have been taking some very good mitigation steps, including wearing masks and physically distancing from one another,” Rigler said. “And while that is very helpful with COVID, it can also help against influenza transmission.”

While the flu can be unpredictable, doctors say the best way to avoid complications, or a severe illness, is to get a flu shot. And it’s not too late. Also, keep up with the same coronavirus precautions we have taken during the pandemic, like washing hands and staying away from others who are sick.