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Flu and COVID: Hope for this Upcoming Flu Season?

Updated: Aug 23, 2020


You have probably read or heard the following regarding COVID multiple times, including this snippet from the CDCs official website about spread:


Person to Person


"People with COVID can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that coronaviruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with COVID cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get COVID by touching a surface or object that has coronavirus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes."


Nothing interesting, right? Except this statement is about the flu, NOT COVID; I changed it intentionally:




Why did I do this? Well, everyone knows how much I HATE when people compare COVID to the flu. Once ill, we have seen quite clearly that the disease processes of the flu and COVID are NOT the same, with COVID demonstrably showing more severe disease in comparison to the flu.


This is NOT debateable.


But for once, I wanted to talk about how their similarities may make this upcoming flu season perhaps a little LESS scary for all of us IF we continue to be socially responsible.


For one, we know the flu and COVID spread in much the same way, mostly via droplets. So common sense dictates then PREVENTION should follow hand-in-hand.


And lo-and-behold, it seems we have worldwide evidence this, in fact, is occurring.


Countries in the Southern Hemisphere are currently in the midst of their flu seasons, which typically extends from April to September ie NOW.


But what has happened to the flu there? Cases have PLUMMETED throughout numerous regions of the Southern Hemisphere.


It is as if the flu season has ceased to exist in many countries:



This has shocked many scientists and physicians who were scared combining the flu and COVID could be disastrous and overwhelm hospital systems. But uhhhh, it has not come to be.


South Africa, in one of the most extreme examples, has only recorded SIX cases of the flu since the end of March.


Six.


Normally by this time, they average around 700 cases, and last year had over 1000.



Obviously COVID may have impacted people seeking treatment, especially early in the pandemic. Perhaps testing has not been as sufficient. But no way those things alone could cause a decrease THIS dramatic. And yes, countries are testing people for BOTH COVID and the flu when symptomatic.


In all of these countries, the importance of social distancing, masks, and proper hygiene have been reinforced. People who are sick are not traveling or coming into contact with others.


So wow, common sense prevails for the prevention and spread of disease.


Who woulda thunk?


But in somewhat of a twist, there is a ever-so slight downside to this success though the alternative is clearly less preferable.


Obviously, less people sick with the flu is a good thing. But it impedes scientists ability to see how being infected with the flu impacts susceptibility to COVID-19 infections. Is coinfection possible or likely? Would the flu be protective? Could the disease course of COVID be more or less severe? These are still unknown. The below article I found very interesting and is a good read going much more in depth on this topic:



In addition, less flu makes it more difficult to predict what flu strains are likely to be the predominant strains for the next flu season so forecasting is all messed up.


For the Southern Hemisphere, the choice of which flu strains to include in the following year's vaccines must be made by this September to ensure enough vaccines are able to be manufactured before their next flu season:



So if the flu vaccine sucks for this coming year, we all will know why. But maybe it will not matter if common sense precautions continue to be followed in subsequent years... though unfortunately my faith in many has dimished a great deal to have much faith this will be the case.


But at least this gives me hope this upcoming flu season for us does not have to be the ticking time-bomb so many fear it could be. And it gives me hope we have the ability to STILL get the number of COVID cases under control... IF we can continue to be vigilant and follow common sense measures.


Things have a chance to not be as gloom and doom as some predict.


And maybe, just maybe, we can reset our baseline to "not plague rats" and "pestilence bad" even post-COVID by following common-sense measures.


So embrace your inner ninja... like Mummy 🙂.


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1 Comment


Sonia Varma
Sonia Varma
Aug 27, 2020

Excellent.

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