The confluence of influenza and coronavirus has fanned fears the UK could face a “twindemic” this winter, killing up to 60,000 Britons. Researchers have now warned that a surge in cases in Croatia could lead to an early outbreak of infections in the UK. The latest reports show that cases of seasonal flu are slowly ticking up.
An expert has warned that the UK is ripe for an outbreak of the flu following a surge in cases overseas.
Doctor McCauly, a flu scientist based at Francis Crick Institute in London, warned cases have skyrocketed in Croatia, India and China, threatening to sweep across Europe.
Flu outbreaks in China could quickly arrive in the UK and other countries through overseas travellers, explained doctor McCauly.
He told Mailonline: “It’s over the next few weekends that we will be able to tell if what we are seeing now is sustained. If it is, we might expect an early flu season.
“There is flu being picked up in some places, but where it is spreading in some of these (e.g Norway and the Netherlands) is not known for certain.
“There has been flu in China from January – but at somewhat lower levels than two years ago.
“India has had flu as well – but it is difficult to know how widespread it is in such a large country.”
Doctor Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency had previously said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could collide with the seasonal influenza outbreak this year.
Experts have warned that a year of social restrictions – which included mask-wearing, social distancing and remote work – have played key roles in weakening immune defences against the flu.
What’s more, these social restrictions were behind a dramatic reduction in the number of flu cases recorded in the UK last winter.
This has fuelled fears that rampant viruses and waning immunity could kill up to 60,000 Britons this year.
The confluent viruses could also threaten to overwhelm the overstretched NHS.
Professor Francois Balloux, a geneticist at University College London, said it was possible for flu cases to surge earlier this year.
He explained: “One argument that this could happen is that so few people have been exposed to the flu over the last year, that they do not have enough protection.
“But, looking at the figures, we are still at a very inter-seasonal level of flu.
“It could pick up, and maybe there are flickers of it starting to grow, but I would not expect it to take off just yet.”
To date, official data shows flu cases in the UK remain low at 0.2 percent in the week of October 3.
According to the latest reports, there were 10 flu infections detected in the last week of September, compared to just two weeks ago.
UK Health Security Agency – shows cases of flu are ticking up slowly, but experts insist it is still too early to tell whether the UK will face a major flu season.
More than 35 million Britons have been offered the flu vaccine to date, as part of the biggest flu vaccine drive in the history of the NHS.
Those currently eligible for the jab include over-50s, healthcare workers, and immunosuppressed individuals.