Amid pandemic, flu has virtually disappeared in the US; Pfizer studying 3rd dose to fight variants

The Latest: Pfizer Studying Effects Of 3rd Vaccine Dose
Andreas Arnold

A police officer receives a AstraZeneca vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centres.

NEW YORK (AP) — February is usually the peak of flu season, with doctors’ offices and hospitals packed with suffering patients. But not this year.

Flu has virtually disappeared from the U.S., with reports coming in at far lower levels than anything seen in decades.

Experts say that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus — mask wearing, social distancing and virtual schooling — were a big factor in preventing a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19. A push to get more people vaccinated against flu probably helped, too, as did fewer people traveling, they say.

Another possible explanation: The coronavirus has essentially muscled aside flu and other bugs that are more common in the fall and winter. Scientists don’t fully understand the mechanism behind that, but it would be consistent with patterns seen when certain flu strains predominate over others, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu expert at the University of Michigan. Read more:

Here’s an update on all developments. Scroll or swipe further for in-depth coverage.

  • Pfizer announced it has begun studying a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, part of a strategy to guard against mutated versions of the coronavirus.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci says if a coronavirus vaccine is available, regardless of which one, take it.
  • The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week but remained high by historical standards.
  • China on Thursday denied subjecting U.S. diplomats to COVID-19 anal tests following reports from Washington that some of its personnel were being made to undergo the procedure.
  • Republicans rallied solidly against Democrats’ proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill as lawmakers awaited a decision by the Senate’s parliamentarian that could bolster or potentially kill a pivotal provision hiking the federal minimum wage.
  • A public service ad campaign unveiled Thursday aims to convince Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, telling them “It’s Up to You.”
  • Los Angeles County on Wednesday reported another 806 deaths from coronavirus during the winter surge, pushing California’s toll above 50,000, or about one-tenth of the U.S. total from the pandemic.
  • European Union leaders are gathering Thursday to try to inject new energy into the bloc’s lagging coronavirus vaccination efforts as concern mounts that new variants might spread faster than authorities can adapt.
  • China approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for wider use Thursday, adding to its growing arsenal of shots.

For more summaries and full reports, please select from the articles below. Scroll further for the latest virus numbers.

Virus by the numbers