The coronavirus pandemic could cause immunity to the influenza virus to decline, Express.co.uk was told. Many now speculate that the world might be on the cusp of a new flu pandemic as lockdown restrictions ease. With millions isolated for over a year, human-to-human contact is at a historical low.
Illnesses picked up at the workplace, public transport and among families have largely ceased, added to an uptick in individual cleanliness.
It comes as EU leaders continue to thrash out a deal with the UK over Covid vaccine supplies, after the continent’s mass vaccination programme stalled once again.
For the second time, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to cut-off vaccines travelling to Britain from production facilities in Europe.
While negotiations continue, Dr John McCauley, the Director of the Worldwide Influenza Centre, a WHO Collaborating Centres for Influenza, told Express.co.uk that many scientists are talking about populations being at risk of a “new pandemic”.
Talking about history’s worst flu events, he said: “Those seasons are when you have a pandemic flu, when there’s a new virus in the population.
“The worst of those ever documented was 1918, and the scale of death for London was pretty similar to the coronavirus scale of death currently.
“The difference would be that the air distribution was different – so there might have been a distinctive impact and greater impact than coronavirus.
“I hear speculation that we might be at greater risk of a new flu pandemic.
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Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the WHO had sounded the alarm for a potential new and deadly flu virus to hit the globe.
In 2019, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, told The Daily Telegraph that “we should be afraid” of such an event.
He said: “If pandemic flu starts like we had 100 years ago, with the level of [connectivity] we have now, cases could travel within hours from one corner to the other.
“And imagine the level of destruction we could have.
“Pandemic flu actually worries me all the time.
“If you ask me one thing – that’s what scares me. As a world we should be afraid of it.”
Back then, Dr Tedros warned countries not to “invest in panic” but to focus on pumping time and energy into preparedness and disease surveillance.
Figures from Public Health England (PHE) at the beginning of this month show that since the start of the year – normally the height of flu season – not a single case of influenza has been reported by laboratories.
These centres typically test patient samples sent by GPs of hospitals to determine the cause of the illness.
Only five people admitted to hospitals in England had flu, compared to 90-a-week last year in the same period.
Data from the Royal College of GPs Research and Surveillance Centre show that the amount of flu virus circulating in 2021, based on the number of patients who consult GPs with symptoms, is around 95 per cent lower than usual in England.