Even though the coronavirus is devastating the world’s population by killing 3.7 million people worldwide. Doctors and health workers noticed something else was missing: there was almost no flu.
Richard Webby, an influenza specialist at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, said: “The flu never happened anywhere. Except for some reasonable activities in West Africa.
“No one has ever seen it. This includes lockdown countries. This includes countries that are not yet locked down. This includes countries that do a good job of controlling the spread. Including countries that don’t work well,” Webbie told CNN.
not clear why Many experts believe that measures taken to help control the coronavirus also prevent the spread of the flu. It may be that the coronavirus can defeat or interfere with the flu.
Either way, Webby and other experts think the flu̵7;s lull is only temporary. They worry when the flu comes back. It is likely that this fall will be revenge.
“The worst flu season we’ve ever had is probably coming,” Webbie said.
“When it comes back It’s going to be a boring season,” agrees Aubrey Gordon, an epidemiologist who studies the flu at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
One of the reasons the upcoming flu season is likely to be dangerous. can be explained by human behavior People are tired of lockdowns. wearing a mask being away from others It will want to celebrate the freedoms offered by the vaccine that protects them from the coronavirus and the declining pandemic.
They might overdo it.
travel has increased The restaurant is coming back full. And the school is planning to reopen with one-on-one classes.
But while people flocking to resorts, bars and family gatherings may be very safe from the coronavirus, they are not as safe from the flu or other respiratory viruses that spread the same way that coronavirus is: in the air. droplets and on the surface .
“I think the growing number of people who don’t wear masks and don’t have much social distance. The common respiratory infections that we see everywhere will surely increase,” said Allison Aiello, who studies the spread of infectious diseases at The University of North Carolina School of Public Health told CNN.
Aiello said North Carolina had already increased in respiratory disease.
“We should expect some increase. especially in the fall when children back to school,” she said.
spreading the virus in school
“Not just the flu It’s all other respiratory viruses,” Webbie said. These don’t just include the flu. but also respiratory viruses or RSV, adenoviruses, the coronavirus strains that cause the common cold, rhinoviruses and others.
“I think the mitigation measures we have for coronavirus have dropped and children go back to school on their own. And we all begin our journey again. especially at the international level We know that all types of respiratory viruses are more likely to spread,” said Lynette Brammer, who leads the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s domestic flu surveillance team. told CNN
“And we certainly expect that influenza and other respiratory viruses The decline last year will return,” she added.
“In some ways, we’re back to normal. You start putting the kids together and you get the virus.”
However, Brammer is wary of forecasts.
“The flu is always unpredictable. And I feel like it’s more true now than ever,” Brammer said.
There is a second reason to think the 2021-2022 flu season might be a bad season. There is one well-documented theory that the human immune response is naturally enhanced by repeated yearly exposure to viruses such as influenza. These exposures may not be enough to make people sick. But it’s enough to remind the immune system to maintain its defenses.
“The longer you leave it The more likely you are to show symptoms and get sick,” Gordon said.
“We know that the longer you stay unexposed to influenza, The more symptoms you will have. Sick patients lead to more severe cases. We already know that.”
The same goes for RSV, non-Covid-19 coronaviruses and other infections. All of them can cause serious illnesses. Anyone can cause pneumonia,” Gordon added.
RSV in particular affects very young infants and young children. It kills about 100 to 500 children every year and 14,000 adults, most of whom are over 65.
As many as 4 million babies born during the pandemic will get RSV and other viruses for the first time when they go to daycare for the first time. “We don’t know what effect it will have on these young children delaying their initial exposure to RSV,” Gordon said.
“There could be a very large RSV outbreak.”
Aiello isn’t sure about the possible effects of avoiding germs for a year or so. “This is a short period of time,” she said. Avoiding exposure for years may be expected to have an effect, but 15 months or so. Most people keep social distance. Working from home or outside of the classroom may not be long enough to affect the immune system.
Two years of virus unified
But the fall flu season can feel worse. Although not really, Aiello said, if nothing else. Many children will experience two years of exposure to various viruses. in one season
“When a person has not been sick for a while You seem to be having more severe symptoms,” she said.
Influenza will be the only virus that can be measured. Doctors don’t test people for most other respiratory viruses, mostly because there’s no specific treatment for them, but the CDC tracks the flu.
The flu kills between 12,000 and 61,000 people a year, depending on the season, the CDC said.
The report said the 2019-2020 season was a moderate season, with 38 million people in the United States with influenza, 18 million met healthcare providers for treatment, 400,000 were sick enough to be hospitalized. and killed about 22,000 people.
The CDC says about 8% of the US population gets sick from the flu each season. It ranges between 3% and 11% depending on the season.
Much depends on how many Americans are vaccinated. Each year, less than half of the population gets the flu vaccine, although the CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for nearly everyone over six months of age.
One thing the CDC knows for sure: Flu activity is unpredictable.
“I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know,” Brammer said. “We just have to wait and see.”
Brammer has been experiencing flu every season for decades. And each season is unique.
“Every time you think you know what’s going to happen. It will do something completely different,” she said.