Although the coronavirus is ravaging the world’s population, killing 3.7 million people worldwide, doctors and public health officials have noticed that something else is missing: There is almost no flu.
“The flu was nowhere to be found, except for some sensible activity in West Africa,” said Richard Webby, a flu specialist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
“No one has seen it. This includes countries that have done a blockade. It includes countries that have not done any locking. They include countries that have done a good job controlling the pandemic. They include countries that have not done a good job.” Webby told CNN.
It is not entirely clear why. Many experts believe that measures taken to help control the coronavirus also prevent the spread of influenza. It is also possible for the coronavirus to somehow overcome or prevent the flu.
In any case, Webby and other experts believe that the lull in flu activity is only temporary. They are worried that when the flu returns, probably this fall, it will be avenged.
“It could be the worst flu season we̵
“When he comes back, it’s going to be silly for the season,” agreed Aubrey Gordon, an epidemiologist who studies flu at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
One of the reasons the upcoming flu season is bad can be explained by human behavior. People who are tired of locking up, wearing masks, staying away from other people, will want to celebrate the freedom offered by vaccines that protect them from the coronavirus and the weakening of the pandemic.
They may overdo it.
Travel is already increasing, restaurants are filling up, and schools plan to reopen with private classes.
But while people who flock to resorts, bars and family gatherings may be much safer than the coronavirus, they are no safer than the flu or other respiratory viruses that spread in the same way that the coronavirus is: in the air, droplets and surfaces.
“I think a greater number of people who don’t wear masks and aren’t as socially distant will definitely have an increase in the common respiratory infections we see seasonally,” said Alison Ayelo, who studies the spread of infectious diseases at school. public health at the University of North Carolina, CNN reported.
Ayelo says North Carolina is already seeing an increase in respiratory disease.
“We should expect some increases, especially in the fall when the children return to school,” she said.
Spread of viruses in school
“It’s not just the flu. It’s all the other respiratory viruses,” Webby said. These include not only influenza, but respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, adenoviruses, coronavirus strains causing the common cold, rhinoviruses and others.
“I certainly think that the mitigation measures we have introduced for Kovid are coming down and the children are going back to school in person and we are all starting to travel again, especially internationally, we know that all types of respiratory viruses will have many more opportunities to spread. “Lynette Brammer, who leads the U.S. team to fight disease and prevent internal flu, told CNN.
“And we certainly expect the flu and all other respiratory viruses that have been low in the last year to return,” she added.
“In a way, we’re back to normal. You’re starting to collect children and you’re going to get viruses.”
However, Brammer is cautious in making predictions.
“The flu is always unpredictable, and I feel it’s more true now than ever,” Brammer said.
There is a second reason to believe that the flu season 2021-2022 may be bad. There is a theory, which is not well documented, that the immune response of the human body is naturally enhanced by repeated annual exposures to viruses such as influenza. These exposures may not be enough to make people sick, but they are enough to remind the immune system to maintain its defenses.
“The longer you stay out of exposure, the more likely you are to show symptoms and the more likely you are to get sick,” Gordon said.
“We know that the longer you spend without being exposed to the flu, the more symptomatic you are. Sick people lead to more severe cases. We absolutely know that.”
The same goes for RSV, non-Covid-19 coronaviruses and other infections. “Basically, I would worry about all of them. They can all cause serious illness. They can all cause pneumonia,” Gordon added.
RSV, in particular, affects infants and very young children. It kills about 100 to 500 children and 14,000 adults each year, mostly over the age of 65.
Many of the 4 million babies born during the pandemic will be exposed for the first time to RSV and other viruses as they enter kindergarten for the first time. “We don’t know what the effects of all these young children will be, delaying their first exposure to RSV,” Gordon said.
“There will probably be a lot of epidemics from RSV.”
Ayelo is less sure about the possible effect of avoiding germs for about a year. “It’s a short period of time,” she said. It can be expected that a few years of avoiding exposure will have an effect, but 15 months or so most people have socially distanced themselves, working from home or standing outside the classroom, may not have been long enough to affect of the immune system.
Two years of viruses combined into one
But the fall season of respiratory flu can feel worse, even if it isn’t, Ayelo said. If nothing else, many children will pack two years of exposure to a number of viruses in one season.
“When a person has not been ill for some time, you may appear to be experiencing stronger symptoms,” she said.
Influenza will be the only virus that is measured. Doctors do not test people for most other respiratory viruses – mostly because there is no specific treatment for them – but the CDC monitors the flu.
The flu kills between 12,000 and 61,000 people a year, depending on the season, the CDC said.
It says the 2019-2020 season was moderate, with 38 million people in the United States suffering from the flu, 18 million seeing a health care provider for treatment, and 400,000 being sick enough to be hospitalized and 22,000 died.
About 8% of the US population gets the flu each season, with the range between 3% and 11%, depending on the season, the CDC said.
Much will depend on how many Americans are vaccinated. Each year, just under half of the population receives the flu vaccine, although the CDC recommends an annual flu shot for almost everyone over the age of 6 months.
One thing the CDC knows for sure: Influenza activity is unpredictable.
“I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know,” Brammer said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Brammer has seen every flu season for decades and each is unique.
“Every time you think you know what’s going to happen, it’s going to do something completely different,” she said.