Will Social Distancing Trigger A Surge In Flu Cases Next Year?

A new study suggests that the measures taken to protect society from Covid-19 will have negative implications on the rate of infections for other illnesses, which may lead to our healthcare system being burdened.

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Social distancing was one of the most important measures put in place to combat the Covid-19 pandemic this year but it may have a negative impact in the future.

These kinds of measure are called ‘non-pharmaceutical interventions’, behavioural changes which curb the spread of disease.

These measures have not only helped to break the chain of transmission for Covid-19, but have also slashed infection rates of other diseases.

This idea is supported by a study conducted by Baker, et.al, that has shown seasonal influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have infected a fifth fewer people in the United States in 2020 than in an average year.

The data from the report is clear. There is a sharp reduction in RSV and Influenza cases since March 2020 in numerous states.

The results

Results from the Baker et al report
Results from the Baker et al report
Results from the Baker et al report

The flu benefits from an element of herd immunity, where many people in a population have, at a previous point, caught the virus and created antibodies to protect themselves from reinfection.

Therefore, the likelihood, given these results, is that there will be a sharp increase in both of these illness if and when we find a vaccine for Covid-19 as we leave social distancing and face masks behind.

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. 

Although, a similar study hasn’t been conducted in the UK, it is likely that this will be the same scenario. This in and of itself may cause a burden to the healthcare systems across the world.

Read the full report here.

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