This yr’s public well being headlines have principally targeted on COVID-19, and for good motive. Regardless of the pandemic’s affect on all of us, sick and wholesome, we’ve truly seen a record-breaking low quantity of one other icky, highly-contagious respiratory virus—the flu. Simply to place it in perspective, from late September to late December in 2019, we confronted over 65,000 circumstances of the flu. In that very same chunk of time in 2020, solely a smidge over 1,000 circumstances had been reported.
How does a rustic and world ravaged by such a horrible pandemic get off really easy for a virus that plagues us yearly with out fail? There’s just a few prospects to think about. First, flu photographs are up this season, by lots. In 2020, 188 million doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed as of mid-December, almost 20 million doses increased than winter 2019.
Along with vaccination, the precautions the nation is taking as an entire to stop the unfold of COVID-19, resembling staying house, sporting masks, frequent hand washing, and limiting social contact, are additionally serving to us to not catch and unfold the flu says Elizabeth Lee, an epidemiologist specializing in infectious illnesses on the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg Faculty of Public Well being. Usually within the fall and winter, we begin heading again to high school and shifting our social actions indoors, however not this yr.
“Since that isn’t taking place, there’s undoubtedly a trickle-down impact to different respiratory viruses circulating at the moment,” Lee says. Following hygiene guidelines and never respiration on one another is a surefire technique to keep away from catching contagious respiratory illnesses, regardless of if it’s a standard chilly or a brand new pressure of COVID-19.
However, there’s additionally a much less well-understood motive that when COVID-19 circumstances ramp up, it looks as if flu circumstances decelerate. Based on Lee, there are some research on the market that present how some viruses, just like the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the flu, work together with one another. If a flux of individuals get contaminated by one illness, it’s attainable that the immune response can block out the affect of one other, stopping one other an infection from taking maintain. For this reason some illnesses appear to ‘trade-off’ in the neighborhood, with one peaking whereas the opposite plummets, says Lee.
This idea continues to be within the midst of being higher understood and studied, and because it has solely been a couple of yr since COVID-19 reared its ugly head, there’s nonetheless tons of analysis to be achieved. However there’s definitely an opportunity that getting sick with one might deter you from getting sick with each on the identical time.
Identical to every little thing else in public well being, these flu outcomes are nonetheless in progress and naturally, might change. We’re nonetheless within the chilliest little bit of winter within the Northern Hemisphere, and with vaccines for COVID-19 on the horizon, behavioral change is also looming.
What we’re seeing proper now could be in step with what the Southern Hemisphere noticed throughout their flu season over the summer season. However what our flu season might appear like for the remainder of this season, and even subsequent yr, might be shifted round or delayed due to all of COVID-19′s impacts, Lee says. We’ll simply have to attend and watch because the world tries to get again to some sense of normalcy to see what our once-ordinary illnesses appear like in a post-COVID world.