Why the UK may very well be heading for a flu-covid ‘twindemic’ this winter

Final 12 months’s warnings a couple of significantly dangerous flu season did not materialise, however an earlier and extra extreme outbreak in Australia does not bode effectively for the northern hemisphere

Well being

| Evaluation

28 September 2022

A pharmacist administers a flu vaccine ahead of the UK's 2022/23 flu season

A pharmacist administers a flu vaccine forward of the UK’s 2022/23 flu season

PA Pictures / Alamy

Together with a number of different nations, the UK is stepping up its efforts to steer at-risk teams, together with anybody aged 50 and over, to get vaccinated in opposition to each flu and covid-19 within the coming weeks.

Immediately, UK Well being Safety Company (UKHSA) officers launched their autumn vaccination marketing campaign for each respiratory viruses, warning that this winter is more likely to be significantly dangerous for flu.

At this level some individuals could also be experiencing déjà vu. There have been comparable claims 12 months in the past, however the anticipated “twindemic” of flu and covid-19 didn’t materialise.

However that doesn’t imply we must always disbelieve the warnings this time round. Final winter, many individuals have been nonetheless practising social distancing, to better or lesser extents.

In England, as omicron started surging in December, “Plan B” guidelines have been launched, together with obligatory facemasks in indoor public areas and proof of vaccination to enter venues equivalent to nightclubs.

There was additionally much less social mixing in different methods, equivalent to extra widespread working from house.

In the long run this might not maintain again the omicron surge, however flu is much less transmissible than the coronavirus and it was suppressed to very low ranges.

The variety of individuals hospitalised with flu in England peaked at one sixth of that of the 12 months earlier than the pandemic took maintain there.

Keep in mind that in a mean winter, 20 to 30 per cent of individuals are uncovered to the flu virus, though many haven’t any signs. Which means for 2 years operating, practically all these regular exposures didn’t occur. As this winter approaches, there will probably be a lot much less inhabitants immunity to flu than regular.

This winter, social mixing is more likely to be again to pre-pandemic ranges because the UK has introduced no plans for reintroducing restrictions. The approaching flu season subsequently appears set to be the primary in three years that can enable the same old ranges of respiratory virus unfold.

Australia’s expertise over the previous few months, throughout its winter, supplies an indicator of what could occur within the northern hemisphere. Circumstances peaked considerably increased there than within the three years earlier than the covid-19 pandemic started.

The primary flu variant in Australia this 12 months was referred to as H3N2, which previous analysis suggests causes extra extreme sickness than typical seasonal flu. This pressure was linked with a considerably increased flu hospitalisation charge within the UK six years in the past.

Happily, the flu vaccine quickly to be on provide within the northern hemisphere comprises the H3N2 virus, in an inactivated kind.

The Australian flu season this 12 months not solely noticed the next peak of instances than common, however in addition they occurred earlier in its winter, surging in Might and June somewhat than July and August.

For that reason, it’s important that anybody within the northern hemisphere who’s eligible will get vaccinated in opposition to flu as quickly as they will, says the UKHSA. “It’s best to ebook in as quickly as potential,” Steve Russell, Nationwide Well being Service director for vaccinations and screening, stated in a press release.

Covid-19 has additionally not gone away. The most recent figures from hospitals and the Workplace for Nationwide Statistics present that instances are beginning to rise once more within the UK.

“This winter may very well be the primary time we see the consequences of the so-called ‘twindemic’ with each covid and flu in full circulation,” stated Russell.

The excellent news is that the rise in covid-19 shouldn’t be being attributable to a radically totally different coronavirus variant, however by a number of new subvariants of omicron – and the bivalent vaccine on provide in lots of nations comprises an omicron part. Within the UK, everybody provided a booster ought to be provided the bivalent model, barring provide disruptions.

The dual risk makes it all of the extra essential that eligible teams take up their presents of covid-19 boosters and flu vaccines, says Simon Williams at Swansea College, the UK.

“Public well being campaigns want to offer clear and robust messages in regards to the dangers of flu in addition to covid to those that are weak in addition to to the well being system – akin to the ‘Defend the NHS’ marketing campaign which labored so effectively earlier with covid,” says Williams.

Extra on these matters:

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