Does getting the flu with COVID double your threat of loss of life?

Globally, an estimated 290,000 to 650,000 individuals sometimes die annually from seasonal flu. Last yr, nevertheless, was totally different. The northern hemisphere winter of 2020-21 noticed among the lowest recorded flu loss of life charges.

Scientists imagine this was primarily as a consequence of restrictions put in place on the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably much less mixing of individuals in indoor areas, social distancing, masks carrying and hand washing.

Many nations, together with the United Kingdom, additionally noticed report numbers of individuals come ahead for the flu vaccine throughout this time – motivated partly by fears of contracting COVID and flu on the similar time. The end result was fewer flu instances, hospitalisations, and deaths in contrast with earlier flu seasons.

But as a lot of the developed world is now absolutely vaccinated in opposition to COVID, and governments are centered on reversing among the financial injury of the pandemic, many social distancing measures have been lifted. In England alone, regardless of nearly 40,000 new instances of COVID per day, almost all protecting measures to scale back the danger of transmission of the illness have been lifted.

As a end result, there was a stark rise within the variety of COVID instances which has coincided with the onset of what’s normally the flu season. There is an actual fear that this yr we may see extra individuals than ever turn into contaminated with flu – and that many may get flu and COVID on the similar time.

Although it was in some methods an excellent factor that we noticed decrease ranges of flu circulating final yr, this might come again to chew us this yr.

Usually, flu seasons are simpler to deal with when some portion of the inhabitants has a pure immunity on account of an an infection the earlier yr. But as fewer individuals had flu final yr, we’ll possible see much less pure inhabitants immunity.

In addition to this, the northern hemisphere is normally ready to take a look at the southern hemisphere – to nations like Australia, for instance, which have their flu season earlier than the north – to see which flu strains are circulating and to incorporate these within the flu vaccine. But as a result of Australia has had COVID lockdowns and restrictions in place which have restricted the circulation of flu there, it’s tougher to precisely predict which strains can be round this season.

The flu and COVID-19 are severe diseases – each can kill, and getting them on the similar time will increase your threat of changing into critically unwell. Get the vaccines; it’s our greatest line of defence in opposition to each.

All of that is prone to result in an particularly brutal flu season this yr. To assist mitigate this threat, many nations have rolled out an bold flu vaccine marketing campaign and lots of Western nations have mixed this with encouraging individuals to both take up the COVID vaccines in the event that they haven’t already or to come back ahead for booster photographs if they’re eligible.

With all of the information round COVID, it’s straightforward to turn into complacent about flu, however it may be a severe and lethal illness. Flu can have an effect on the lungs, trigger pneumonia, cardiac issues and sepsis, which may result in loss of life. During an acute flu an infection, the immune system can turn into weakened whereas preventing off the virus; should you have been to then get one other an infection like COVID-19 on the similar time, the danger of long-term organ injury and loss of life will increase.

Speaking to Sky News on October 10, UK Health Security Agency chief govt, Dr Jenny Harries, stated individuals who catch flu and COVID on the similar time this winter are twice as prone to die than those that solely have the coronavirus. “I think it’s an uncertain winter ahead,” she warned.

But there are issues you are able to do to scale back your threat of getting flu and COVID on the similar time. The most vital is to take up the vaccines if you’re eligible. Although it’s tougher to foretell this yr, typically the flu vaccine can scale back your threat of sickness by 40-60 %.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has forecast the 4 flu strains prone to trigger probably the most infections this yr, and people are what the vaccines will defend you in opposition to. The flu vaccine won’t provide the flu, solely defend you from it, though some delicate unwanted side effects like a sore arm or headache are regular.

It can be nonetheless advisable to put on masks in crowded indoor areas and on public transport in addition to to practise good hand hygiene. In addition to this, ventilating indoor areas will assist to blow away any particles containing the flu virus which were breathed out by contaminated individuals.

The flu and COVID-19 are severe diseases – each can kill, and getting them on the similar time will increase your threat of changing into critically unwell. Get the vaccines; it’s our greatest line of defence in opposition to each.

Progress report: Increase in pregnant ladies hospitalised with COVID-19

The UK National Health Service (NHS) is encouraging pregnant ladies to get the COVID-19 vaccine as new knowledge exhibits that nearly 20 % of probably the most critically ailing COVID sufferers are pregnant ladies who haven’t been vaccinated.

According to the newest knowledge in England, since July one in each 5 individuals receiving specialist remedy generally known as Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is an unvaccinated pregnant girl. People who want ECMO have a extreme and life-threatening COVID an infection that stops their lungs from working correctly.

Pregnant ladies with COVID-19 have a 76 % elevated threat of pre-eclampsia, a probably deadly complication of being pregnant; and soberingly, maternal deaths related to COVID have been famous to be 22 instances greater than these in non-infected pregnant ladies.

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

It is properly established now that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) are certainly secure for pregnant ladies to take, and the danger of getting the virus outweighs any potential dangers from the vaccines. In 827 pregnant ladies who had accomplished pregnancies and acquired one or two doses of mRNA vaccines, a current research studies no elevated charges of miscarriage and stillbirths, in contrast with pre-COVID charges. There have been no will increase in preterm labour or destructive results on newborns, together with congenital abnormalities.

Still, there stay excessive ranges of hesitation amongst pregnant ladies and people planning to get pregnant in terms of taking on the COVID vaccine. A big a part of that is because of misinformation circulating on-line concerning the results of the vaccines on growing infants. But we should additionally maintain our fingers as much as the truth that there was a delay in approving the vaccines for pregnant ladies at the beginning of the rollout, resulting in inconsistent messaging and confusion.

Pregnant and breastfeeding ladies are sometimes excluded from medical trials on moral grounds. But the delay in getting this security knowledge for the COVID vaccines meant the pregnant ladies or these planning a being pregnant have been informed they might not have the vaccine. It was not till later that the security knowledge got here in and the recommendation modified. There is little question in my thoughts this has contributed to vaccine hesitancy on this group and it highlights the necessity to embrace this usually high-risk group of individuals in trials so that they can also profit from rising and new remedies.

The focus now should be on repeatedly reminding unvaccinated pregnant ladies that the vaccines are secure and efficient. Although COVID restrictions are easing worldwide, this virus remains to be very a lot on the market and susceptible teams, comparable to pregnant ladies, stay at excessive threat.

Personal account: What the UK’s (mis)dealing with of the pandemic did to care houses

The Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee have printed a damning report which criticised the UK authorities and its scientific advisers for his or her dealing with of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research, put collectively by a bunch of cross-party MPs, checked out key choices by policymakers and their outcomes.

A serious criticism was that the planning across the pandemic was primarily based on a flu outbreak moderately than viruses comparable to SARS or MERS which can be way more just like the virus that causes COVID-19. This meant recommendation round controlling the outbreak and defending the susceptible was primarily based on a virus that’s far much less infectious and lethal, resulting in a catastrophic variety of deaths within the early phases of the pandemic.

The report tells of scientists not taking the pandemic critically sufficient and the federal government pursuing “herd immunity” by permitting the virus to unfold in what they hoped could be a managed method moderately than trying to cease transmission. We now know that managed unfold by an unvaccinated inhabitants meant extra individuals died.

It additionally stated the primary lockdown didn’t come early sufficient, and that an earlier lockdown would have purchased time to develop a a lot wanted “test and trace” system; one other delay that, in my view, triggered pointless deaths.

The report goes on to speak concerning the “slow and chaotic” check and hint system; the UK’s lukewarm border management measures; and says extra may have been completed to gradual the unfold of the Alpha variant that led to the second waves of deaths within the winter of 2020-21. It additionally tells of how minority teams weren’t protected regardless of them being hit the toughest.

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

But maybe probably the most troublesome factor for me to learn was the half about care houses, and the way, regardless of the then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying he had put a “protective ring” round care houses, the reality was that folks have been despatched from hospital again to care houses with out being examined for the virus, resulting in tragically excessive numbers of deaths.

As a health care provider who labored all through the pandemic and noticed the results of those failures in actual time, I’m not stunned by the findings of the report. But to see it listed like this in black and white is heartbreaking. I work in an inner-city space which has a dense minority inhabitants. I noticed a few of my sufferers from these teams die; I held the hand of dying residents of care houses who weren’t allowed to have relations round them; I made calls to family members informing them that their mom or father had handed away from COVID. These are the actual tales from the pandemic.

My one frustration is that there can be no accountability. The households of these misplaced to the virus proceed to endure and this report will compound that struggling. While I acknowledge this was a novel sickness and we have been studying alongside the way in which, we may have completed issues higher. We may have checked out nations like South Korea which have been tackling issues extra successfully, who didn’t see the numbers of deaths we noticed within the UK and another nations.

Hindsight is at all times a invaluable factor, however my solely hope going ahead is that classes can be realized, and we won’t repeat the identical errors. We have to humbly take ahead what we learn about coping with the pandemic, who probably the most susceptible teams are, and the way typically performing early is best than reacting too late.

Good information: Children throughout Africa to be vaccinated in opposition to malaria

A vaccine to assist defend in opposition to malaria was at all times going to be historic, so there’s a lot to have fun with the WHO recommending the rollout of a brand new RTS,S vaccine.

Malaria is without doubt one of the greatest killers of youngsters throughout Africa, and having completed voluntary work in Malawi, I’ve seen first-hand the way it can devastate households. Currently, a baby dies each two minutes from malaria in Africa.

Malaria is brought on by a parasite that may get into the human physique by contaminated feminine mosquitoes once they chew. The parasite targets crimson blood cells, infecting and destroying them. There are a number of various kinds of malaria parasites however the commonest in Africa is Plasmodium Falciparum.

The trials, which have been carried out in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, discovered that the vaccine led to a 30 % discount in extreme malaria, and that it was deemed to be cost-effective.

The draw back is that it’s given in 4 doses: at 5 months, six months, seven months, and a closing booster on the age of 18 months. This will take some organisation, but when it may be completed, numerous lives can be saved.

Reader’s query: Is it secure to get my flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine on the similar time?

Yes.

During the preliminary rollout of the COVID vaccines, we have been suggested to attend seven to 14 days earlier than getting one other kind of vaccine, however this has since been revised as extra proof has emerged.

Health authorities the world over have agreed that each vaccines could be given on the similar time. This just isn’t a brand new idea; we frequently give a number of childhood vaccines on the similar time and it’s deemed secure to take action.

So, if you’re supplied each on the similar time, my recommendation is to take them.

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