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Wearing masks to prevent the flu

Pennsylvania had one of the mildest flu seasons on record this year, but was the drop in cases due to mask-wearing?

MOOSIC, Pa. — Pennsylvania saw a 95% drop in flu cases this past season.

There were fewer than 4,000 confirmed flu cases, compared to more than 130,000 thousand the previous year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

That has some people asking if things like masks and social distancing should make a comeback next flu season. 

"I don't think so. I think it's a little over-reactionary. People are gonna get the flu; you take the flu shot, you won't get as sick," said Scott Morris of Scranton.

"I'm a nurse, and my son is a respiratory therapist. And his theory is the masking lowered the flu season completely. So I think masking for flu is a positive," said Dotti Lokuta of Avoca. 

"You gotta trust in the doctors and use some common sense too. But I think it still comes down to how you feel about it," said Paul Haller of Scranton.

"I think it should be up to the person. I mean, if they feel comfortable wearing a mask, then they should. If they don't, you know I think we all that common sense to take that opinion and run with it," said Angela Bejeski of Duryea. 

Lia Crispell is an associate chief advanced practitioner for Geisinger ConvenientCare. 

We asked her if an overlap between people having COVID and the flu, or a drop in testing for the flu, could have accounted for part of the decrease. 

"So we did only outpatient testing for COVID, we did not do outpatient testing for influenza this year, but that was largely in part because everyone that presented with the typical flu symptoms of high fever, body aches, chills, headaches, sore throat, we tested them for COVID, and more times than not they were positive for COVID," said Crispell. 

"Inpatient, they were doing full respiratory panels, and they were finding that no one that had COVID also had any other viruses, so after we monitored it for a few weeks, we just didn't feel it was necessary to continue testing."

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says the flu shot is still the best way to prevent sickness, and it's too soon to decide if masks will be recommended just for flu prevention. 

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