As countries suffer from the devastating coronavirus in winter, Old Dominion Pediatrics’ phones in Virginia ring. Callers with infected family members ask for advice on how to quarantine them at home to keep others from getting sick.
But no one asked about the flu
And Eric Freeman’s test found that dozens of his patients had coronavirus, but hardly anyone tested positive for the flu.
“Covid is playing a major role at the moment and there is not enough room for the spread of influenza yet,” Freeman said in an interview on Monday. At work before Thanksgiving “
For months, public health experts, general practitioners and pediatricians have warned that an increase in the number of people infected with the coronavirus during the winter will spike the flu season that kills tens of thousands of Americans annually. But the funny thing happened amid a global epidemic: the flu season was effectively canceled.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that just 1,893 Americans tested positive for the influenza virus this year between laboratory and public health laboratory results. At this point last year more than 290,000 people had the flu.
The CDC reported in August that 198 children died of influenza-related causes during the past flu season, a record high. So far this year only one child has died, the lowest number since records began in 2004.
“You never thought you would have such a silver lining. [pandemic]But this is closest to the silver lining ever, ”said Peter Hotez, pediatrician and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College. Self-study [does]. ”
There are fewer than 1 in 1,000 hospitalizations this year for influenza, one in seven of the proportion recorded in the most recent low-severity flu season from 2011 to 2012.
American health workers and vaccines often compile important advice on the upcoming flu season from the virus that began to spread in the southern hemisphere winter, which is our summer.
But while those officials voiced the warning about the possibility of two seasons of respiratory disease, governments in Australia, Chile and South Africa reported lower flu flows. The viral curves in the three countries started to decline faster than in the previous season due to new blocks and restrictions.
“In the past twelve months, with the exception of some West African and Southeast Asian countries, no one has had the flu. And that’s in really strictly shut down countries, in countries that might not be strictly shut down. That’s a little confusing to me, ”said Richard Webby, director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaboration Center for the Ecology Study of Animal and Bird Flu at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The same thing appears to be happening in the United States. Influenza is less infectious than the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, which means that masks and social aloofness are more likely to affect the overall number of people with influenza than the coronavirus. School closures are meant to deter one of the most prolific vectors of human-to-human transmission.
“Young children and schools play a big role when we talk about the spread of influenza in communities,” Webby said. Flu epidemic “
And Freeman said parents were reminded of health officials’ warnings that their children should get influenza. Although final data on flu vaccine acceptance rates have not been known for months. But Freeman said the vaccine acceptance rate in his practice in southern Richmond, Virginia was significantly higher than in previous years.
“This is one of the best years in 15 years of getting the flu vaccine. This year, the parents were definitely getting involved, very enthusiastic, ”Freeman said.“ It’s the point where I can’t keep the flu vaccine on the shelf. ”
Nothing seems to be easy about the coronavirus pandemic, and some experts warn that even the least dangerous flu season recorded can have some downsides. The general flu season provides clues about which strains will become dominant next year, allowing vaccine makers to tailor next year’s shots to specific strains. Without such knowledge, it can be more difficult to produce a vaccine that matches next year’s strains.
“There is not enough information about the virus that is spreading in the world,” said Adolfo Garcia-Sastre. Said director of the Institute of Global Health and Emerging Pathogens at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, “Since there is so little flu flow, we don’t know exactly what strains are currently spreading. Does it cause problems with vaccine development and is it necessary to improve it? “
David Wentworth, chief of virus surveillance and diagnostics at the CDC’s Department of Influenza, said the WHO’s global influenza surveillance and response system continues to test between 50,000 and 100,000 samples per week to identify the dominant strains.
“A lower number of positive samples makes it more challenging to identify the most appropriate vaccine for each of the four influenza virus groups included in most influenza vaccines for the 2021-22 flu season. But it should be noted that The vaccine virus selection and introduction process is not based on the influenza virus currently pandemic, ”Wentworth said in an email.
Further strains identification also relies on current strains genetic sequencing, post-vaccination serological studies to show which strains may be ruptured in the next year, predictive models and vaccine efficacy studies.
The rapidly growing lack of influenza infection has reduced what could be the stress in the healthcare system that has plagued the pandemic when more than 100,000 Americans are treated for COVID-19 in hospitals across the country. And the United States still records large numbers of deaths caused by what the CDC calls flu-like illness, although the overwhelming majority of these cases are due to COVID-19.
The flu will not go away and health officials keep an eye on for a worrisome strain that could become a future threat to human health – WHO said in January there will be an epidemic of H5N6 in China in H1N1 cases. In China and the Netherlands, H1N2 in Brazil and H3N2 in children in Wisconsin.
But with success in treating influenza this year, doctors hope to push for more vaccine adoption in late summer and early fall.
“These [mitigation] This measure is really effective to reduce the spread of the respiratory infection virus, “I don’t think we can reduce the case enough to prevent the spread of the virus completely.”