EU Warns Of New ‘Twindemic’ Risks

The EU faces a prolonged ‘twindemic’ – a simultaneous spike in the incidence of coronavirus and influenza, Reuters wrote, citing the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Influenza almost disappeared in 2021 due to lockdowns and mask-wearing, but it is returning at a faster rate than expected due to loosening restrictions, the organisation noted.

In December 2021, the number of flu cases in European intensive care units peaked at 43 in the last week of the year, ECDC and World Health Organisation (WHO) data show. This is about 10 times less than before the pandemic, with only one such case in 2020. This season, for example, 72 serious cases of flu have already been reported in France, with six deaths.

The ‘twindemic’ could therefore put undue pressure on already overburdened health facilities, according to the ECDC report.

This is because many countries are loosening COVID-19 restrictions because of the strong vaccination drive, the agency said. The removal of restrictions in the spring could result in flu continuing to spread strongly after May when its spread in Europe has traditionally slowed, ECDC Influenza Chief Expert Pasi Penttinen told Reuters. Complicating matters further, the A (H3) strain of the virus, which usually causes severe illness in older people, has become the dominant type.

In 2022, the ECDC says, there may also be difficulties in the availability of effective flu vaccines. Laboratory studies show that vaccines available this year « will not be optimal » against H3, Penttinen noted. This is because when the composition of vaccines was determined in 2021, this particular virus was not circulating much. This resulted in manufacturers not expecting to encounter it this season.


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