As per the research published in the Journal for Infectious Diseases, if COVID-19 measures are removed, a major influenza epidemic would occur, with higher levels of influenza in the years that followed.

The researchers utilized computer modeling at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health to estimate the decrease in flu transmission and incidence after the adoption of control measures. To forecast influenza transmission over the next five years, the researchers combined these statistics with the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) information.

‘Get Your Flu Vaccine,’ Specialists Advise, Since Removing COVID Limitations May Result In A Widespread Flu Epidemic

A study conducted last year found that non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) such as mask-wearing, physical distance, travel limitations, and school closures were associated with a 60 percent reduction in flu cases over the 10 weeks after their implementation.

'Get Your Flu Vaccine,' Specialists Advise, Since Removing COVID Limitations

According to the findings of the research, the decreased exposure to influenza during the control efforts may have resulted in a reduction in immunity.

In an interview with Medical News Today, Dr. Jonathan Stoye, director of the Francis Crick Institute, United Kingdom, said, “This modeling study […] suggests that reduced numbers of infections in 2020 will result to waning population immunity, which in turn may contribute to a surge in flu infectious diseases for several years.”According to the researchers, loosening control measures may result in a large-scale flu epidemic, especially in parts of the U.s. where COVID-19 control compliance was very high.

They also expect that due to the low levels of prevalent flu during the pandemic, it will be difficult to forecast which circulating flu strains will need to be used to guide future vaccine development. The efficacy of influenza vaccinations may be compromised as a result of this. It is not unavoidable to have a bad flu season.

More optimistically, the authors acknowledge that a very severe flu season is not a certain conclusion. Because of the emphasis on COVID-19, it is possible that flu cases were underreported last year, resulting in a greater number of individuals being infected with the virus than their modeling predicts.

Alternatively, because of the decreased flu circulation, the virus will have had fewer opportunities to evolve and create new versions of itself. As a result, people may have developed antibodies to previous flu illnesses, which would result in a less severe epidemic this year.

According to Professor William Schaffner, Professor of Public Health at Vanderbilt University College of Medicine in Nashville, TN, the allegation of underreporting is not persuasive: “Last year saw the lowest incidence of flu in any of our memory, thanks to the COVID-19 restrictions.” The underreporting of influenza, in my opinion, was not the case. We did not see a significant decrease in testing, although there was a little amount of flu identified. “I believe the low flu rate was a real occurrence.”

Doctor Stoye, on the other hand, believes that the intensity of an outbreak is dependent on the number of variants: “It will be interesting to see if such a rise does, in fact, occur because rates of viral illness are driven by a variety of factors, including the rate at which new viral variants are discovered.