Cases of the flu and other seasonal viruses fell by more than 99 percent last year, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that, on average, around 4,800 cases of influenza and other common infections were detected each month before the pandemic.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, only 12 cases per month on average were detected.
The findings match what many scientists have previously said, that the regular flu season did not happen in America last year because regular masking and social distancing prevented the respiratory illness from spreading.
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The early months of the year often see spikes in cases of the flue and other respiratory illnesses. Those spikes did not happen in 2021, as masking and social distancing prevented the flu's spread
For the study, published in JAMA Network Open, the team looked at hospital data within its health system from July 2018 to February 2021.
This was compared to data from April 2020 to February 2021 to compare rates of the flu before and after the pandemic.
Flu cases dropped from 4,800 each month to only 12 cases per month on average, a drop of 99.75 percent.
Instances of other respiratory illnesses dropped from 560 per month before the pandemic to 228 per month during the pandemic.
The researchers also found a 79 percent decrease in the prescription of antibiotics used to treat these illnesses.
Data from Wisconsin matches a nationwide trend, where flu cases fell dramatically in 2020.
Cases of the flu declined by 99 percent during the pandemic according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only 1,316 cases were recorded from September 2020 to January 2021, compared to more than 130,000 in the same period a year before.
Two common forms of the flu,