Every winter we take extra precautions to limit the spread of the flu.
This winter no cases of the flu have been diagnosed or recorded in the Netherlands. This statistic is pretty astonishing, and we should not assume that it is entirely accurate. Due to the pandemic, we have been testing for Covid-19 a great deal more than we have been testing for influenza. However, it does seem as though the lockdown and other measures that have been taken to curb the spread of Covid-19 may have also reduced the transmission of flu in the Netherlands.
‘We are not tracking the influenza virus as well as the coronavirus, but everything indicates that the circulation of influenza has stopped. We do not find it in the samples from general practitioners, and the virus is not found at the hospitals either.’
People have been to their local doctor’s surgery complaining of flu symptoms but none of these cases have turned out to be flu. Other Western and Northern European countries have seen a reduction in flu cases as well. A spokesperson from the World Health Organisation has given the following statement:
‘The Covid-19 pandemic has really had a major impact on the flu worldwide. […] Although flu has been tested continuously, in some countries even more than usual, the number of cases is smaller than expected everywhere. In February and March 2020, influenza was on the rise in the Northern Hemisphere, which is normal for the time. But from mid-March, when corona really took off, the number of flu cases suddenly showed a sharp drop. Since then, the influenza virus has been at a low level.’
Could social distancing and increased focus on hygiene reduce flu cases in the following years? We’ll have to wait and see! However, one thing is for sure – Covid-19 has certainly changed the way we think about viruses and transmission.