Facing into the winter flu season correct thru a virus is a provoking prospect. The severity of the influenza viruses in circulation each yr is already complicated to predict, however with lower levels of winter flu in the southern hemisphere earlier this yr, there would possibly maybe be less info on both the flu viruses themselves and the effectiveness of the vaccine which is developed in the direction of the close of the outdated flu season.
And that’s sooner than you even have confidence confusing Covid-19 and flu symptoms and the hazards of getting both on the identical time – no longer to speak the hazards of spreading Covid to prone other folk by those that mediate they ideal enjoy the flu and no longer coronavirus.
“There hasn’t been a lot flu virus in the southern hemisphere this yr since the flu season came on the identical time on the Covid-19 lockdowns, and interventions that block Covid also block flu virus,” explains Dr Kim Roberts, assistant professor of virology at Trinity College Dublin.
And while, on one level, that would end result in optimism that international locations across Europe will enjoy less flu this winter, Dr Roberts cautions that we’re no longer on the identical level in restrictions here as locations akin to Australia and Contemporary Zealand had been correct thru their winter flu season. “The flu season puts an ample rigidity on the health products and companies in a fashioned yr and the aptitude for Sars-Cov-2 [the scientific name for the novel coronavirus which causes Covid-19] to transmit will also gaze transmission of flu as nicely,” explains Dr Roberts.
Roughly 4,300 other folk had been hospitalised for flu in Ireland in the 2019-2020 flu season, according to figures offered on the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19. And between 200 and 500 other folk die every winter from complications bobbing up from the flu. With fewer beds in the health center system attributable to social distancing restrictions – and fears of a 2nd wave of Covid-19 – the aptitude affect on health center products and companies doesn’t hold all for.
There are also long-established concerns that this also will most likely be complicated to repeat the variation between flu and Covid-19 symptoms, leading another folk to carry they’ve the flu in divulge of Covid or vice-versa. Fever or chill, a dry cough, aches and danger and fatigue are fashioned symptoms of both the flu and Covid-19. Nonetheless, shortness of breath and loss or changed sense of style and smell are extra explicit to the unconventional coronavirus which causes Covid-19. Complications are extra recurrently connected to the flu while sore throat is continuously connected to Covid-19.
“It will most likely be tricky for GPs to repeat aside flu from Covid-19 so the single formula to provide protection to ourselves and cut again the extra rigidity on hospitals this yr bigger than ever is to fetch the flu vaccine,” says Dr Roberts, who is selling flu vaccination on behalf of a leading chain of pharmacies. She advises other folk to fetch the flu vaccine early because it customarily takes about two weeks to grab produce. Pharmacies are for the time being taking online reserving from those alive to to fetch the vaccine in pharmacies in divulge of at GP clinics. The flu vaccine is free for those over 65, other folk with lengthy-time duration health concerns and adolescence.
Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of the Nationwide Virus Reference Laboratory at College College Dublin and chair of the knowledgeable advisory team of the Nationwide Public Health Emergency Workforce (Nphet) says that of us which enjoy had flu in the previous must recognise it. “The influenza virus outcomes in a unexpected onset of debilitating symptoms including muscle aches and danger, lethargy, fatigue and evening sweats, while the onset of Covid-19 appears to be like to be less dramatic with fever, cough and shortness of breath; [the latter] is now not any longer a protracted-established influenza symptom,” he explains.
What happens if other folk diagram conclude Covid and flu on the identical time? Dr Lucy Jessop, director of public health on the Nationwide Immunisation Place of job, says that early reviews from China correct thru the close of the 2019/2020 flu season came across that there are extra likely to be complications and poorer outcomes in other folk which enjoy Covid-19 and the flu virus on the identical time.
Dr de Gascun says that in some scenarios, other folk will must be examined both for influenza and Covid-19 however that there obtained’t be a must close inhabitants testing for influenza. “Those with underlying conditions who also will most likely be treated with anti-viral medication for influenza desires to be examined for both and if there would possibly maybe be a virulent disease of a respiratory illness, other folk would possibly well must be examined for Covid-19 and influenza,” he says. Nonetheless, the amount of testing for influenza virus in a fashioned winter is between 15,000-20,000 checks which compares to 60,000 checks for Covid-19 in a single week on the close of August.
Young adolescence and older adults besides those in assorted prone teams are most at probability of tormented by complications of the flu, according to Dr Jessop.
October 1st is the designated origin of the winter flu season. The Health Service Executive has ordered about 1.4 million doses of injectable flu vaccines that are attributable to come in in Ireland by the close of September. These will most likely be disbursed to pharmacies and GP practices over the direction of the flu season.
Flu vaccination is prompt for everybody over 65, those with lengthy-time duration medical conditions akin to diabetes, heart, kidney, liver, lung or neurological illnesses and those whose immune system is impaired either attributable to therapy or disease. Pregnant ladies, nursing dwelling residents, healthcare workers, carers and those with a body mass index over 40 are also informed to enjoy flu vaccination.
One other 600,000 nasal spray vaccines, to be administered to adolescence mature two-12, enjoy also been ordered by the HSE for the first time this yr. These sprays comprise a weakened dwell flu vaccine which affords a bigger immune response in adolescence. The injectable vaccine administered to adults has a viral protein in divulge of a dwell virus which the adult immune system responds to in expose to provide protection to the actual person catching among the flu viruses for the time being circulating. Prone adolescence mature six months to 2 years and prone children will most likely be given the injectable in divulge of the nasal spray flu vaccine.
Measures to diminish the unfold of Covid-19 – coughing etiquette, hand hygiene, carrying of face coverings and social distancing – also can decrease the incidence of flu here this winter. “Hand hygiene is serious for the prevention of the flu and the “diagram conclude it [sneeze or cough into a tissue], bin it, abolish it” slogan along with wash your fingers enjoy repeatedly been promoted for flu prevention,” explains Dr Jessop.
Dr de Gascun adds, “The public health measures launched for Covid-19 will enjoy an affect on all respiratory viruses. So, if other folk continue with these public health measures and if there would possibly maybe be an elevated uptake of the flu vaccine this yr, I would possibly well be a chunk of optimistic regarding the winter season.”
The truth that adolescence are acknowledged to be vectors of the flu – however no longer Covid-19 – is probably going among the the clarification why the HSE has launched the flu vaccine for adolescence mature between two and 12 for the first time this season. Childhood immunisation for the flu used to be already below review by the Nationwide Immunisation Advisory Committee however the pandemic arguably brought forward its introduction here.
“Young other folk are very factual at spreading the flu virus and the World Health Organisation has been recommending flu vaccine for adolescence for years. The winter flu vaccination programme for adolescence began in the UK in 2013,” explains Dr Jessop.
She says that vaccinating adolescence in opposition to the flu virus no longer only protects adolescence themselves however also protects households and prone other folk akin to grandparents. “Vaccinating adolescence in opposition to the flu is factual for fighting the unfold of the influenza virus in the inhabitants,” says Dr Jessop.