Covid-19 Means a year without the flu. That’s not all good news

Posted by Kapil on October 22nd, 2021

As autumn faded until the winter of last year, a couple of researchers with infectious diseases began to turn their attention away from the Covid-19 pandemic and back to something more well-known. This was the time of year when they usually started looking at their numbers for the flu, the seasonal flu – to see how bad the outbreak would be, and to assess how well that year’s vaccine handled the protean respiratory virus.

The answer was: bupkis. Hardly anyone was sick or died of the flu. A year earlier, in the 2019-2020 flu season – basically autumn and winter, which peaked in December, January and February – 18 million people in the United States saw a doctor for their symptoms, and 400,000 had to be hospitalized. In all, 32,000 people died. But in the current season, cases barely crossed four digits. “There is always vaccine season and flu season. We are used to working in that pattern, and the pattern is gone, ”says Emily Martin, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who is part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza surveillance network. “Now I’m glad I did not have to do Covid control and flu control at the same time. That would have been a disaster. But at the same time, it’s this strange year. ”

Strange. And it’s not just the flu. Case numbers for respiratory syncytial virus, which primarily affect babies and for which influenza has a seasonal rhythm, also bound. According to one paper which came out last week, the list of missing actions also includes enterovirus D68, a likely culprit behind the polio-like children’s disease, acute slap myelitis. The virus and AFM come and go on an approximately every two years cycle, and the last round in North America was in 2018. In 2020, they also missed their signal.

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