Maybe this winter won’t be so bad after all.
While the US and other countries in the northern hemisphere are preparing for a possible windemia from COVID-19 and influenza towards the end of the year, countries south of the equator such as Australia, Argentina and South Africa offer a glimmer of hope: They have just had one of their mildest flu seasons.
These charts from The Economist show that in the southern hemisphere, where the winter flu season runs from May to October, the number of influenza infections and deaths has declined sharply this year compared to the last five years. The World Health Organization conducted 200,000 influenza tests in the first two weeks of August. Only 46 were positive that year, compared to nearly 3,500 in a typical year.
And while an average of 86,000 Australians test positive for flu and around 1
Take a look at some of the charts below.
The Economist and some health professionals, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, acknowledge the social distancing and personal hygiene measures that have been put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in order to stem the annual flurry of flu outbreaks in the southern hemisphere. However, there are concerns that if people ease up wearing face masks and avoiding the crowds, and schools and businesses reopen, the flu could spread. Indeed, the Economist notes that flu cases could still increase this year and next in the southern hemisphere as fewer people have developed immunities to this year’s strain.
As a result, health professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics are urging that all Americans over 6 months old get the flu vaccinations to further minimize their chances of getting sick. The US flu season generally starts in October before it peaks between December and February. CDC Director Robert Redfield recently warned America is preparing for “the worst public health decline we’ve ever had” with both COVID-19 and flu cases overwhelming hospitals. The flu has hospitalized between 140,000 and 810,000 Americans each year since 2010 and is responsible for 12,000 to 61,000 deaths each year.
Connected:The vaccination of children against the flu is “more important than ever” this year: paediatricians
Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, also cited the southern hemisphere’s historically mild flu season during a Congressional hearing on the country’s response to the coronavirus on Wednesday.
“If we continue to do what each of us has been told – about the types of preventative measures including wearing masks, social distancing, crowd avoidance, hand washing, etc. – when we do this in the fall and winter “For the purposes of COVID-19, this should have a positive impact on the rate of influenza infection,” he said. “Because our colleagues in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Australia, saw this, they had a very, very low, mild influenza season.”
If Americans practice these public health measures and get their flu vaccines, he said, “Hopefully we can have very, very low levels of flu that won’t complicate the clearly challenging winter challenge of COVID-19.”
In the same hearing, Fauci got into a violent exchange with Senator Rand Paul, accusing the Kentucky Republican of repeatedly “misinterpreting” the COVID-19 research and “not listening” to the CDC.
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