Seasonal respiratory viruses re-emerge post-Covid

Recent reports from the UK and USA suggest a severe cold & flu season may be in store during winter 2021-22. With lockdown restrictions, increased hygiene measures and social distancing in force for over a year to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19, the incidence of common respiratory viruses has been very low. However, with the lack of exposure to illnesses (especially among young children), many of us have not built up antibodies and as a result our immune systems may have been inadvertently weakened.

This has prompted warnings of a potential surge in influenza as measures are lifted; data released this week by the UK’s Office of National Statistics show that in the week ending 11th June, 84 death certificates issued in England & Wales mentioned Covid, while 1,163 deaths involving flu and pneumonia were registered. Additionally, a recent study by the Houston Methodist Research Institute shows the rapid re-emergence of seasonal respiratory viruses following the relaxing of Covid-19 restrictions in Texas in March 2021.

This trend was also reported in a recent article in STAT, in which Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist who monitors which viruses are circulating via the Nextstrain service, was quoted as saying: “Just in the last month [May 2021] or so we’ve started to pick up small amounts of seasonal coronavirus, RSV, metapneumovirus, etc. It’s the first time since April 2020 where we’re starting to see other things circulating.”

There is particular concern that by the time universities, colleges, schools and nurseries reopen this autumn across the northern hemisphere, there will be perfect conditions for high transmission of seasonal respiratory viruses, particularly RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Andrew Pavia, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah, warned: “There will be two years’ worth of kids who are naïve to RSV, instead of one birth cohort. That could be fertile ground for a big RSV year.”

Epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, a member of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said in a BBC interview that we must be prepared for a potentially “quite significant” flu epidemic and increased hospitalisations this winter. To help save National Health Service resources, researchers are investigating whether seasonal flu jabs and a Covid vaccine can be administered at the same time.

We are pleased to announce that our Eye Health report is now published and available to order! You can review case studies of key brands, NPD activity and much more. Plus, ensure you have registered for the free webinar on 30 June here to discuss the topline findings. For more information, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

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