Scientists are concerned about a possible flu epidemic this winter. They associate this with the gradual weakening of measures against coronavirus – many people practically do not even use masks. Athenian doctors share their concerns.
Professor of Theology Thanos Dimopoulos, Associate Professor of Endocrinology Lina Pashu and Professor of Preventive Medicine Theodora Psaltopoulou – doctors of the therapeutic clinic of the Medical School of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens – present the relevant data.
Seasonal flu kills between 290,000 and 650,000 people worldwide every year. However, in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, in 2020-2021 he “modestly retreated into the shadows”, giving way to a stronger and more dangerous “brother”. WHO-backed FluNet, which monitors global health data, demonstrates that the percentage of positive influenza tests has remained consistently low from April 2020 to today.
In the United States, for example, for the entire 2020-2021 academic year, only 646 deaths from influenza were recorded, only 1 person died from childhood flu. In Australia, for the entire year 2021, no deaths from seasonal flu have yet been recorded (in previous years, their number varied from 100 to 1200 people).
The pandemic response also suppressed some bacterial infections, such as those that cause meningitis and pneumonia, and those associated with sepsis. However, this cannot be said for absolutely all viruses – rhinoviruses, which are the main cause of colds, continued to spread and even increased their presence. This is most likely due to their insensitivity to hygiene measures such as thorough hand washing and surface disinfection.
However, the situation appears to be changing. Many viruses make themselves felt even in the off-season. From unusually low levels in 2020, they intensified in the US this spring. For example, infections with the respiratory virus RSV, which usually cause mild symptoms of the common cold, but are responsible for about 5% of deaths in toddlers under 5 years of age. The incidence of RSV began to increase in April this year and continues to increase at the present time.
According to APE-MPE, this data seriously worries scientists against the backdrop of the weakening of restrictive measures on coronavirus. An important aspect is the increase in the number of people who did not come into contact with influenza during the quarantine period and do not have immunological protection against it.
There is already evidence from around the world of an increase in the circulation of H3N2, H1N1 and influenza B viruses. In the winter of 2019-2020, influenza took the lives of a record number of children. So this year’s flu shot isn’t just important, it’s essential.