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​Flu Is Now ‘Almost Completely Wiped Out’, Experts Say

Jess Hardiman

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​Flu Is Now ‘Almost Completely Wiped Out’, Experts Say

The number of people being struck down by the flu has dropped by 95 percent, according to official data, having fallen to levels not seen in more than 130 years.

According to a new report from the Sunday Times, in the second week of January - a period that is usually the peak of the flu season - the number of flu-like illnesses reported to GPs was just 1.1 per 100,000 people.

This is compared to a five-year average rate of 27 per 100,000 people.

Speaking to the newspaper, Simon de Lusignan - professor of primary care at the University of Oxford and director of the Royal College of GPs research and surveillance centre, which focuses on flu - said influenza has now been 'almost completely wiped out'.

He added: "I cannot think of a year this has happened."

John McCauley, director of the World Health Organisation's collaborating centre for reference and research on influenza, said: "The last time we had evidence of such low rates was when we were still just counting influenza deaths, and that was in 1888, before the 1889-90 flu pandemic."

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

And believe it or not, it is believed that the coronavirus pandemic has played an unlikely part in the dramatic fall in numbers, largely because increased hygiene has left flu germs nowhere to go.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, told the Sunday Times that the various health measures taken to combat Covid-19 are likely to be the main factor behind the drop in cases.

Scientists hope that the disruption of the cold, flu and virus seasons over the past year could help reveal new information about their behaviour and transmission, such as how they respond to health measures, how they interact and more.

Speaking to Nature.com last month, Sonja Olsen - an epidemiologist at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, which is part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia - said: "This is a natural experiment for so many respiratory viruses."

Virologist Richard Webby at St Jude's hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, also said the disruption to international travel may have also played a part, as flu typically travels around the world from one winter to another, while also maintaining a lower, but year-round, presence in the tropics.

He said: "I don't think we can put it all down to mask wearing and social distancing."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: UK News, News, Health

Jess Hardiman
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