Flu infections fall in UK since Covid outbreak – new chart shows face mask 'importance'

New data released by the the UK Health Security Agency: flu surveillance report shows that cases of influenza are down a staggering 93 percent compared with the same time period in the 2019 to 2020 period. This is based on weekly percentage of samples testing positive for flu.

The latest data comes as global governments grapple with a new variant of COVID-19, dubbed Omnicron, which has spurred tightened restrictions in some countries.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reinstated mandatory mask-wearing in public places.

This includes shops and on public transport.

However, the Government has said it’s just a “precaution” while scientists try to understand the severity of the new virus and whether it may pose additional risks.

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However, some experts believe that the introduction of restrictions aimed at combatting coronavirus could be the reason why influenza cases are falling.

This is coupled with the ongoing annual vaccination effort against the flu.

Hussain Abdeh, clinical director and superintendent Pharmacist at Medicine Direct told Express.co.uk: “The low numbers and lack of flu cases during 2020-21 is a very welcome statistic, particularly as the flu is a very fast mutating and contagious virus, similar to the coronavirus itself.

“The reason for this is the pandemic has increased awareness and educated us all on the importance of public health and how important safety measures, such as wearing a face mask can be so vital when it comes to catching and passing on a virus or infection.

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“There is no doubt that many of the measures introduced to help combat the spread of COVID have also proved highly effective for the flu.”

The flu vaccine is currently being offered to people over the age of 50, or those who are more at risk from the flu, such as people with certain health conditions or who are pregnant.

The annual flu vaccination programme first began in England in the 1960s.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, there is some belief that the virus may have replaced the flu as the dominant seasonal illness.

But, social distancing measures may also be to thank for the drop in cases over the last two years.

Mr Abdeh said: “If we are to take anything away from the pandemic, it should be how effective face masks and sanitising can be in preventing the spread of any virus, not just Covid.

“Flu season often coincides with cold weather, so people generally associate the cause of flu as being cold weather. However, just like coronavirus, you need to come into contact with the virus to catch it.

“Face masks and regular sanitising will no doubt continue to keep flu numbers at bay.”

Mr Abdeh believes that the measures being practised to combat the pandemic could be the key to reducing cold and flu viruses in winters to come.

He said: “It is my personal belief that the UK public will continue to use facemasks more frequently, particularly during cold and flu season.

“I also believe that individuals coming forward for the flu jab will increase massively, particularly as we have witnessed first-hand the benefits of a vaccination programme and how it offers a level of immunity to a virus.”

However, he points out that a reduction in their use could see seasonal illnesses grow in prominence once again.

He added: “With the UK starting to revert back to normal with many businesses open as normal, there is cause for concern that this could trigger a bad flu season with many people ditching their face masks.”

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