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mohammedkhairi37 (at gmail)

Flu season 2021 may be severe. Here's why

Reported by mohammedkhairi37 (at gmail) | June 10th, 2021 @ 08:20 PM

The coming flu season may be a doozy.

Even as coronavirus was devastating populations around the world, killing 3.7 million people globally, doctors and public health officials noticed something else was missing: There was almost no flu.

Japan

One child died from flu this year in the US. In 2019-2020, there were 199 flu-related deaths in children and 144 the season before that. Flu cases, usually counted in the tens of millions, only accounted for a few thousand this year in the US.

"Flu hasn't been anywhere, with the exception of some reasonable activity in western Africa," said Richard Webby, an influenza specialist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

"No one has seen it. That includes countries that have done lockdown. It includes countries that haven't done any lockdown. It includes countries that have done a good job controlling the pandemic. It includes countries that haven't done a good job," Webby told CNN.

It's not entirely clear why. Many experts believe that measures taken to help control coronavirus also prevented the spread of influenza. It's also possible that coronavirus somehow outcompeted or interfered with flu.

Either way, Webby and other experts think the lull in flu activity is only temporary. They worry that when influenza returns, likely this fall, it will be with a vengeance.

"The worst flu season we ever had may be coming," Webby said.

"When it comes back, it is going to be a doozy of a season," agreed Aubree Gordon, an epidemiologist who studies flu at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

One reason the coming influenza season is likely to be a bad one can be explained by human behavior. People tired of lockdowns, of wearing masks, of staying away from other people, will want to celebrate the freedom offered by vaccines that protect them from coronavirus and the waning of the pandemic.

They may overdo it.

Travel is already on the increase, restaurants are filling back up, and schools are planning to re-open with in-person classes.

But while people flocking to resorts, bars and family gatherings may be much safer from coronavirus, they're not any safer from flu or other respiratory viruses that are spread in the same ways that coronavirus is: in the air, in droplets and on surfaces.

"I do think with a greater number of individuals not wearing masks and not as much social distancing, there is definitely going to be an uptick in the common respiratory infections that we see seasonally," Allison Aiello, who studies the spread of infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina's school of public health, told CNN.

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