With social-distancing measures being implemented in many countries I would expect other viruses, like the ones that cause seasonal flus, to have also a hard time propagating in these circumstances. Are there any estimates or research (epidemiological models) I can check, about the possibility we are winning by accident a war against many other less alarming viruses?

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    $\begingroup$ relevant XKCD $\endgroup$ – acvill Jun 8 '20 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Dirigible full page (so you can read the hover text as well) $\endgroup$ – wjandrea Jun 9 '20 at 2:54
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    $\begingroup$ Of course there's an xkcd. How couldn't there be? $\endgroup$ – OldBunny2800 Jun 9 '20 at 3:40
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    $\begingroup$ Anoter relevant XKCD $\endgroup$ – gre_gor Jun 9 '20 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ I think "killing" is the wrong therm here. Social-distancing is reducing the spread of viruses. $\endgroup$ – gre_gor Jun 9 '20 at 21:43

Yes, this helps as well with other infectious diseases. A good example is the flu, which season was measurably shorter this year than in other years on record. See the figure from the reference 1 for comparision:

enter image description here

Reference 2 shows that this is also true for other respiratory diseases (figure 2):

enter image description here

This shows very well that the isolation measures and the social distancing work very well to control such transmissable diseases.


  1. How coronavirus lockdowns stopped flu in its tracks
  2. Monitoring respiratory infections in covid-19 epidemics
  • $\begingroup$ The flatline of on that second chart is absolutely remarkable compared to previous years. I wonder if these effects will last a significant period of time or if spread of common viruses will be back to normal next year. $\endgroup$ – Sellyme Jun 9 '20 at 1:10
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    $\begingroup$ Of course there are possible reasons for that flatline in addition to limiting the spread. For instance, people who otherwise might have made a doctor visit for the flu may have decided to skip it this year. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 9 '20 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf That graphic is as a percentage of analysed specimens, so those people staying home are not part of the sample at all. Additionally, "there may be other contributing factors, such as people choosing not to go to a place where sick people often congregate" is really killing two birds with one stone in this specific case. $\endgroup$ – Sellyme Jun 9 '20 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ Looks like the flu season was off to an unfortunately strong start before social-distancing guidelines and lock-downs were put in-place, then presumably the safety procedures helped drive the curve down. But for reference, is there some simple way to qualitatively describe when lock-down procedures kicked in? $\endgroup$ – Nat Jun 10 '20 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidStarkey, if you look into the reference, that chart only applies to Hong Kong. Given their proximity to mainland China, they started taking aggressive precautions before COVID showed up, as I recall. $\endgroup$ – PGnome Jun 11 '20 at 20:00

In addition to Chris' answer above, the effect is even more pronounced in Southern Hemisphere countries where flu season started during the pandemic. The New Zealand lockdown and health response dramatically lowered the prevalence of reported flu-like symptoms. Flu in New Zealand, 2020 is much lower than other years

Reference: Flu Tracking reports - New Zealand – week ending 31-May-2020

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    $\begingroup$ NZ's winter is only just beginning, and their lockdown is over. $\endgroup$ – curiousdannii Jun 10 '20 at 7:17
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    $\begingroup$ @curiousdannii flu season =/= winter, flu season lasts a lot longer $\endgroup$ – Tim Jun 10 '20 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ I don't have points to write my own answer, but this is a great account of Lab confirmed flu cases in Australia over the past few years and early 2020 (updated 15 June). immunisationcoalition.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/… $\endgroup$ – Drew Jun 18 '20 at 0:54

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