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COVID-19 : COVID puts a stop to the flu: only 7 variants compared to 6,927 a year ago

Leaving behind a 2020 to forget, We welcomed 2021 with a third wave of the pandemic that, two months later, we are already controlling. Despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is as present as in the last year, what is certain is that other diseases have appeared to a much lesser extent than other winters. It is the case of the flu, one of the viruses that mutates the most every year, however, this season -until February 14- only seven influenza viruses were detected in all of Spain.

Information provided by the Influenza Surveillance System in Spain (SVGE), made up of epidemiologists and virologists from the autonomous communities, the National Epidemiology Center (CNE) and the National Microbiology Center (CNM) of the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII). And it is that, so far this season, Aragon is the community that has detected the most types of flu. The first was reported last October 2020, a non-sentinel A (H1N1) pdm09 virus, and in November they detected a non-sentinel A (H3N2) virus.

As early as 2021, in January, the same community notified, in the week of January 4 to 10, a type A influenza virus (not subtyped) from a non-sentinel sample. And, between January 10-17, a type B flu virus also from a non-sentinel sample. In addition to Aragon, Castilla-La Mancha detected three between November 30 and December 6: all non-sentinel influenza type B viruses.

Very noticeable decline compared to 2020

Compared to the data of a year ago, when the coronavirus was still something unknown or, at least, we saw it as distant, the decline of has been greatly noticed. In February 2020, lhe global incidence rate of influenza was 223.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which does not seem so dramatic compared to the current rate of the coronavirus in Spain -in 320 cases according to the data this Thursday-.

However, on these same dates, a year ago, 1,757 sentinel cases of influenza viruses had already been reported. They were joined by the 5,170 non-sentinels, so the total was 6,927 viruses.

Health measures, key to the decline in influenza

If something has helped control this flu virus it has been, without a doubt, health measures imposed to curb the increase in COVID-19 cases. The use of the mask and social distancing have made a difference, in addition to the vaccination campaigns against the flu that were carried out last fall. “The different hygiene and social distancing measures implemented by the Member States to reduce the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have probably contributed to reducing the transmission of the influenza virus ”, justifies the WHO.

Nevertheless, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes in his latest report that these current flu data should be interpreted with caution since the coronavirus “It has influenced the behaviors to request medical assistance, staffing / routines at sentinel sites, as well as priorities and capacity for testing in Member States ”.

Situation in Spain and Europe

Despite the fact that the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) indicates that the flu season has started throughout Europe and that, even with massive testing, cases of the disease remain very low. The truth is that in those that we have in season, only 11 serious cases of influenza were reported that have required admission to the ICU, of which none have died. In fact, this past week only one case has had to go through intensive care.

“Although tests are being carried out for the detection of the influenza virus in a general and continuous way, reported flu activity still remains very low ”, indicated from the ECDC. Even in Spain, the SVGE highlights that “despite the continuity in testing for influenza, even with increased frequency in some countries, lflu activity remained at lower levels than expected for this time of year ”.