Nearly one year of social distancing and mask-wearing hasn't been enough to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control in America. But it's been enough to produce an unforeseen silver lining: flu cases have plummeted.

Flu activity is "unusually low," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consider this: about 450 adults have died after contracting the flu this year. Last year, 22,000 deaths were attributed to the virus.

The disparity is even starker when you look at pediatric cases.

Last year, 195 children died because of the flu. This year, just one has died.


One child has died because of the flu this year. CDC

Harvard professor Dr. Maimuna Majumder examined flu activity from the past several years.

"In the past, #flu has killed 6,000-16,000 Americans per year… But as we put the peak of the 2020-21 flu season behind us, there have been just ~500 deaths so far—a remarkable >90% drop," she tweeted.

"Masks & distancing prevent more than just #COVID19," she concludes.

Many experts, like Dr. Majumder, believe that flu activity is so low this year largely because of how we've been responding to COVID-19.

The flu virus spreads through respiratory droplets, much like COVID-19. Because of the pandemic, more people are choosing to stay home, even when they're not feeling sick. For those who do go out, many are wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

Those actions are helping in the fight against COVID-19. And they've been overwhelmingly successful in the fight against the seasonal flu.

Dr. Tom Frieden, an infectious disease expert and former director of the CDC, says we should consider mask-wearing even when the pandemic is over.

"Masks and distancing crushed the flu curve this year, preventing tens of thousands of deaths," he tweeted. "People in other countries mask regularly in crowded places when they feel sick—we should too in the US, even after the pandemic is over. A small action that could save lives."