The flu season is here. The winter flu-covid “twindemic” may be coming to the UK. Every year, the flu virus spreads worldwide and infects people of all ages.
The British Society for Immunology has confirmed that the country is set to face a double-punch of flu, with two strains of the virus circulating. One is H3N2, which was behind last year’s global outbreak, and the other is A (H1N1).
The winter cold is usually known as a “lone wolf” in the UK, but this year it will arrive in the form of a “twindemic”
It didn’t happen last year, despite predictions of a particularly devastating flu season, but an earlier and more severe outbreak in Australia doesn’t seem suitable for the northern hemisphere.
What precautions are being taken?
All hospitals in the world are working harder to persuade people at risk, like those 50 and more aged, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu in the coming weeks.
However, that does not imply we should disregard the warnings this time. Many people continued to practice social distance, either more or less, last winter.
For instance, “Plan B” regulations were implemented in England after the omicron coronavirus strain spiked in December 2021. These included requiring face masks in most indoor public areas and proof of immunization to enter places like nightclubs.
In other aspects, such as with more people working from home, there was less social interaction.
In England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) began an autumn vaccination program against these illnesses after stating that the flu season is likely to be particularly problematic this year.
Some people may be having déjà vu at this moment. Similar allegations were made a year earlier, but there was no “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19 anywhere in the UK.
Even though the flu isn’t as contagious as the coronavirus and was kept to deficient levels, this didn’t stop the omicron surge.
How does the Twindemic affect people during winter?
During the winter of 2021–2022, the peak number of flu patients admitted to hospitals in England was one-sixth of what it was in 2019–2020, the year before the COVID–19 pandemic hit.
20% to 30% of people are exposed to the flu virus during the winter, even though many may not show any symptoms. This indicates that virtually all those typical exposures didn’t occur for two years.
This winter in the UK, there will be a lot fewer people who are immune to the flu than usual.
Social mixing will likely return to pre-pandemic levels this winter as there are currently no plans to reimpose restrictions in any region of the UK. So, it looks like the next flu season will be the first time respiratory viruses can spread at normal rates in three years.
Australia’s recent winter experiences can be used as a predictor of what might occur in the northern hemisphere. More cases peaked there than in the three years before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s predominant influenza strain in Australia was H3N2, which, according to prior studies, appears to be more virulent than seasonal influenza. Six years back, this strain was linked with a slightly increased flu hospitalization rate within the UK.
The H3N2 virus is present in the flu shot made for the northern hemisphere, but it has been turned off.
This year, the peak of the flu season in Australia was more prominent than usual and happened earlier than expected, in May and June instead of July and August.
Because of this, everyone in the northern hemisphere which is eligible must have a flu shot as soon as possible.
Covid-19 hasn’t vanished either. According to the most recent data from hospitals and the Office for National Statistics, cases are beginning to climb once more in the UK.
With COVID and the flu in full swing this winter, we may witness the twindemic’s impacts for the first time.
The good news is that numerous novel omicron subvariants, included in the bivalent vaccine available in many countries, are causing the spike in COVID-19 rather than a fundamentally different coronavirus variant.
Everyone in the UK who needs a booster should be given the bivalent version unless there is a problem with the supply.
Given the double risk, eligible people must take their COVID-19 supplements and flu shots.
Similar to the “Protect the NHS” campaign that was so successful with COVID, public health campaigns must send solid and explicit warnings about the dangers of the flu and COVID to vulnerable people and the health system.