BLUFDespite the devastating effects COVID-19 has had on the world, the disease may have inadvertently eradicated a common flu virus.
Since the arrival of COVID-19, another potentially lethal disease—influenza—has hardly reared its head. In fact, for the past 18 months or so, global flu rates have been so low it appears that one flu virus may have been eradicated. Key points of this article:
Studies show the COVID-19 pandemic may have eradicated the Yamagata virus—one of the four major strains of influenza.
There hasn't been a single detection of the Yamagata virus in 18 months.
Australia's 2022 flu vaccine will still include protection against the Yamagata virus, but it may be dropped the following year.
As the world begins opening its borders again, vaccination against flu will be more important than ever.
Two new studies—one published in Nature Reviews Microbiology (the other currently under review)—show that the Yamagata virus hasn't been detected anywhere in the world since April 2020. But experts say it's still too early to guarantee that it's gone for good; there is still the possibility the Yamagata virus could be lurking in a pocket (or pockets) of the world somewhere. So if there's any upside to the pandemic, it's this: On average, around 100,000 flu cases are detected in Australia each year, and hundreds of people die from it. This year, Australia has so far detected just 550 flu cases—and not a single death.
Dec 2020 Nature How COVID-19 is changing the cold and flu season
Mar 2021 ABC Australia Australia's first cell-based influenza vaccines to roll out this flu season
Jun 2021 ScienceDirect The missing season: The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on influenza
Sep 2021 ABC Australia Influenza cases hit an all-time low in Australia in 2021 — that could be a problem when it returns
Oct 2021 The Conversation Flu season paired with COVID-19 presents the threat of a ‘twindemic,’ making the need for vaccination all the more urgent