Social distancing measures 'will trigger a surge in flu cases next winter' because fewer people have been exposed to the seasonal virus...
“Masks will likely be scrapped after a vaccine has been widely rolled out and proven to be effective, when this happens, other viruzes will seize on the abandonment of these measures, infecting the now bloated susceptible population.”
- Princeton scientists studied impact of Covid-19 measures on other viruses
- Found masks and social distancing lased infection of flu and RSV by 20%
- This will create more people who are susceptible to the viruses in future
- Will be a spike in number of non-Covid flu cases in winter 2021-2022
Social distancing and other measures put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic will trigger a spike in flu cases next winter, a study warns. So-called non-pharmaceutical interventions – behavioural changes which curb the spread of disease – have been in force for much of 2020. They include wearing face masks and social distancing.
These measures have not only helped to break the chain of transmission for Covid-19, but have also slashed infection rates of other diseases. As a result, seasonal influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have infected a fifth fewer people in the United States in 2020 than in an average year, data shows, a.
However, researchers caution that this apparent bonus will have a knock-on impact in the coming years, because it increases the pool of susceptible people. The number of at-risk individuals will likely increase further, as masks and social distancing are expected to remain in place for several months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They will likely only be scrapped after a vaccine has been widely rolled out and proven to be effective.
When this happens, potentially in the Spring of 2021, other viruses will seize on the abandonment of these measures, infecting the now bloated susceptible population. As respiratory disease and viruses always thrive in the coldest months, researchers expect the winter of 2021-2022 to be beleaguered with flu and RSV cases. Princeton University scientists warn it is likely these future outbreaks will 'increase the burden' on healthcare systems.
While some diseases spread more easily than others, some are more dangerous, with a higher mortality rate, and some are very difficult to create a vaccine for. Seasonal flu, for instance, changes rapidly via mutations and as a result a vaccine is only partially effective, meaning a different one must be made every year. But flu's mortality rate is less than 0.1 per cent, whereas the coronavirus is around three per cent, making flu far less deadly. This is the main reason Covid-19 has been so rampant in society – it spreads slightly slower than the flu but is more likely to kill the people it infects.
Flu also benefits from an element of herd immunity, where many people in a population are protected from reinfection because they have, at a previous point, caught the virus and fought it off. Therefore, they have developed their own protection and antibodies can fight off an infection.The annual flu vaccine is given to vulnerable people whose immune systems may struggle to do this, such as the elderly and pregnant.