Is bad flu season coming?

Where does this claim come from?

The annual flu epidemic looked like it was on vacation last year: the World Health Organization calculated it during flu season 2020-2021 enormous 99.8% fewer cases of influenza They were in Europe. Not entirely unexpected, of course: Coronavirus containment measures also work against other respiratory viruses that spread through droplets and the air, such as the influenza virus.

Until then, the good news. Now that normalcy is slowly getting back on track, it is feared that severe flu season is ahead of us this year. There is just no More infection than expected. some Models predict hospital admissions up to 50%. By skipping flu season, our immunity to the virus will miss its annual increase. That would make us more vulnerable to it this year. Especially children under two years of age, who may have never come into contact with the virus.

These, of course, are just predictions. How much importance should we attach to that? Can we really know what to expect?

    How do you explain this news?

    Why are we less protected this year

    The influenza virus undergoes small (or larger) changes each year. As a result, we risk getting sick every year. However, most of us don’t get infected every year, thanks to our immune system’s memory:

    • Because we are In contact with influenza virus every year Come (whether it leads to illness or not), we stay immune system To some extent Until now.
      • Over time, we will have a catalog of influenza antibodies. With that we can start attacking the new alternative.
      • That’s why we don’t always get sick.
    • by skip year, we may have a file “Update” gems.
      • As a result, we are more likely to get sick this year.
      • Our immune system now has to adapt all at once to the changes brought about by the virus over a two-year period.

    also for Flu vaccine developers This poses an additional challenge:

    • To compile the influenza vaccine for the northern hemisphere, they usually take into account the virus that was circulating during the influenza season in the southern hemisphere (our summer) and vice versa.
    • Based on this, vaccine developers make a file Calculated guess about the virus that will spread with us.
      • Sometimes this works well and the vaccine provides excellent protection.
      • In other years, they gamble more and the vaccine works less.
      • It is difficult to say in advance where we will end this year.

    predictions

    Two recently appeared on the Internet about a To make predictions about the upcoming flu season. Both studies were conducted on the basis of US epidemiological data. However, the results of these studies have not been verified by independent researchers. So we must interpret it with caution.

    • The models used in both studies to make predictions take into account several factors:
      • from virus transmission;
      • diverse Virus variants;
      • Vaccination rate and efficacy;
      • Virus Reduction Measures;
      • from immunity accumulated over the previous seasons.
    • In the first study, the model predicts approximately 100,000 additional hospital admissions related to influenza in the United States of America.
      • That’s about a 20% increase compared to the average flu season.
      • In this scenario, we assume the following:
        • The vaccination rate is still high as in recent years;
        • The virus has medium transmissibility.
    • In addition, the authors also described a worst-case scenario in which we would have to deal with a highly transmissible virus and a low vaccination rate.
      • In this case, we should consider the more than 400,000 additional hospitalizations in the United States.
    • The authors suggest that we can limit this increase in hospital admissions by using Vaccination coverage or increase the effectiveness of the vaccine.
      • If the number of people vaccinated could be increased by 20%, we could prevent this increase (from the first scenario).
    • The second study came up with similar numbers, but it involves more caution.
      • The authors explicitly state that these are predictions, and that reality depends on various factors.

    Influencing factors

    These studies are valuable and the chance of a severe flu season certainly exists. Yet it remains Forecastswith big Uncertainty and margins of error. After all, there are many influencing factors:

    • The first unpredictable factor is that virus yourself. We do not currently know to what extent the variables in circulation will differ from the previous ones.
      • If this year’s virus was very similar to the virus of the previous flu season, skipping the previous season would have a greater impact than if the current virus was more different.
      • With viruses so similar, we would have built an important part of our immunity last year. This is not happening now.
      • With a more deflected virus, the impact of the lost year is less, because then we have to rely more on new antibodies or on the ones we have had for more than a year. Natural immunity to influenza can last for several years.
    • Moreover portability Whole virus will determine the outcome of the flu season.
      • The less the virus spreads, the easier it is to contain the flu and the fewer cases there will be.
      • We can only assess when the influenza virus is actively re-emerging.
    • The third important factor is us behavior.
      • Although we have already put in place many preventive measures for Covid-19, some of them may remain in the coming winter.
      • People are now more aware of the importance of hygiene measures, such as washing hands and keeping a distance.
      • Working from home is still popular and mouth masks can be kept in crowded places for a while.
      • Of course, such actions also have an effect on the influenza virus.
    • Fourth, turn on Vaccines Role.
      • no vaccination coverage Such as effectiveness Vaccines are important.
      • It is not possible to predict this effectiveness in advance. We know that this year it will be very important to vaccinate as many people as possible (with risk factors). This way they build up some extra immunity again.

    The role of the influenza vaccine

    In an unknown world, there is an important factor in our hands: vaccination coverage. The SHC also wants to focus heavily on this and has already issued its recommendations. Demand for flu vaccines will be high this year, while supply may not grow that fast. Therefore, it is better to use vaccines first as it can be more profitable, specifically in Patients are at risk.

    conclusion

    Since we’re past flu season, our immune system isn’t quite up to date and we may be less protected from the flu than usual. However, how severe the flu season will be depends on several factors, such as the virus itself, our behavior, and the vaccine. So predicting how common the flu will be is difficult.

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