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25 Feb, 2021 12:39

Flu gets the cold shoulder: Influenza now virtually non-existent in US as Covid-19 spread continues

Flu gets the cold shoulder: Influenza now virtually non-existent in US as Covid-19 spread continues

The coronavirus-battered US has enjoyed an unusually calm flu season, showing the lowest figures in decades. The lack of influenza likely stems from enduring restrictions – or Covid-19 wrestling out weaker germs, experts believe.

The ongoing pandemic has had an unexpected effect on the US healthscape, with the conventional flu being almost completely wiped out. Figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show a sharp drop in influenza cases occurred last April – and the figures remain extremely low ever since.

The 2020-21 flu season has essentially not even happened at all, with only a few hundred cases detected in months. Since late September, only 1,380 cases of various flu strains have been detected across the US.

“This is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” Lynnette Brammer, an official with the CDC, told AP on Thursday.

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Experts aren’t entirely sure why the common flu has disappeared almost completely, but many believe that coronavirus restrictions, including mask-wearing and social distancing, have done the trick.

The novel coronavirus itself might also have contributed to the lack of regular flu, some experts believe. The powerful virus might have effectively wrestled other weaker germs from the scene, just like some strains of flu dominate over others, a flu expert with the University of Michigan, Dr. Arnold Monto, has said.

The US coronavirus tally has already shot past the staggering 28 million mark, with more than 500,000 people succumbing to the disease, new figures from Johns Hopkins University show.

A similar disappearing-flu situation has been observed by health authorities in the UK, the hardest coronavirus-hit nation in Europe. Since the first week of January, the Public Health England (PHE) has not detected a single case of flu – despite analyzing nearly 700,000 samples at its laboratories.

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English officials have also pointed to mask-wearing, social distancing, and lack of air travel as the primary reasons for the rapidly dwindling numbers.

“If we wanted to, we’ve shown we can reduce flu deaths to pretty much zero,” Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, told the Independent, adding that while most would not support lockdowns to eradicate flu, it would still be “worth encouraging people” to continue wearing masks on public transport during the winter months.

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