One expert has said that flu had been ‘almost wiped out’
While coronavirus infection rates remain high, flu has been “almost wiped out” with cases plunging by 95% to levels not seen in more than 130 years.
The peak of the season is usually the second week of January, but official data for that time shows that the number of flu-like cases reported to doctors was 1.1 per 100,000 people, compared to a five-year average rate of 27.
In Wales, the latest figures show that that numbers in Wales for the week ending January 24 was 0.8 per 100,000.
Simon de Lusignan, professor of primary care at the University of Oxford and director of the Royal College of GPs research and surveillance centre, which focuses on flu told The Sunday Times that flu had “almost completely wiped out.”
He added: “I cannot think of a year this has happened.”
John McCauley, director of the World Health Organisation’s collaborating centre for reference and research on influenza and one of the world’s leading flu experts, told the paper: “The last time we had evidence of such low rates was when we were still just counting influenza deaths, and that was in 1888, before the 1889- 90 flu pandemic.”
It is thought the health measures taken to combat Covid-19 like social distancing and hand washing are likely to be the main reason for the dramatic fall in cases.
A similar trend was seen in the southern hemisphere last year with very few cases of seasonal flu in Australia, Chile and South Africa there between April and July 2020.
A Public Health Wales spokesman has said social distancing, better hand hygiene and masks to contain the spread of Covid-19 were having an impact on flu rates.
“In the Southern Hemisphere winter flu season 2020 levels of circulating influenza were low. This is believed to be due to Covid-19 control measures,” he said.
“Flu viruses spread easily via droplets that are released when we sneeze or cough, and are then picked up on the hands and ingested, or inhaled directly.
“The measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 will also help prevent the spread of flu.”