An autoimmune disease expert said the flu could be “non-existent this fall,” as the United States moves in the colder months as it continues to catch the coronavirus pandemic.
“We may not have the flu at all, but we should all get vaccinated,” Dr. Bob Lahita, president of the St. Joseph’s Department of Health System Medicine, told CBSN anchor Anne-Marie Green .
The World Health Organization estimates that there are approximately 3-5 million serious each yearworldwide and up to 500,000 disease-related deaths annually.
The United States, the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis, has visited more than 150,000 coronavirus-related deaths and more than 4 million confirmed cases since March. Medical experts have been concerned about the growing number of cases as students return to school and the annual flu season begins.
A former U.S. health official, Dr. Rick Bright, testified in athat the country could face the “darkest winter in modern history” if the pandemic is not controlled.
However, efforts to mitigate the coronavirus can bear fruit in other ways.
Countries such as China, Canada and the United Kingdom have recently reported a significant drop in flu cases following global social distancing measures to contain the coronavirus, according to a Reuters report.
The report also states that the number of weekly infectious diseases most recently in South Korea saw “a decrease of 83% in cases from the same period a year earlier.” In Australia, which is currently in the winter, experts are observing significantly lower rates of hospital admissions for non-COVID-19 infectious diseases by the time of year. However, the WHO warned in a recent report that it may be necessary to consider flu numbers with “caution” due to the pandemic that is hampering the reporting capacity of some countries.
Lahita predicted a similar decline in U.S. flu cases “because of our wear and tear and our mask and social distancing.”
“I think it will be very interesting to look at it,” he said.
Some experts worry that the lack of flu infections this year could negatively affect immunity in future flu seasons.
“Maybe if we don’t have infections this season there will be more vulnerable people next season, this is definitely something we will need to monitor carefully,” said Ben Marais, an infectious disease expert at the University of Sydney. Reuters
According to Dr. Lahita, the problem of immunity for bothand the flu could have a simple solution in the future, once the vaccine is developed.
“I think the coronavirus novel will be with us for many, many years to come,” he said. “However, there is hope to go ahead that, for example, in 2021, we will have the two vaccines combined with each other, so that when you are vaccinated against the flu you will be vaccinated against COVID-19.”