Flu with Covid Doubles Risk of Death, British Health Chief Says | Coronavirus
People who catch the flu and Covid at the same time this winter are twice as likely to die as those who only have the coronavirus, according to the chief executive of the British Health Security Agency, Dr Jenny Harries.
England’s former deputy chief medical officer warned the UK was facing an ‘uncertain’ winter – with influenza and Covid-19 circulating for the first time – and urged people to take action. both coronavirus and flu shots if they are eligible.
When asked how worried the public should be about the flu this winter, she told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “We should be worried about the flu every winter. I think people still don’t realize that it can be a fatal disease.
“But I think the important thing about this winter is that we’ll likely see the flu, for the first time in real numbers, co-circulate with Covid. The risks of catching the two together therefore remain. And if you do that, then the first evidence suggests that you are twice as likely to die from having two together than from just having Covid alone.
“So I think it’s an uncertain winter to come – it’s not a prediction, it’s an uncertain feature – but we know the flu cases were lower the year before, so immunity and the types of strains are a bit more uncertain, ”she said.
Harries also warned that the UK could have multi-strain influenza this year, with reduced immunity, as last year’s Covid restrictions meant virus levels were extremely low.
She said that on average, about 11,000 people will die from the flu each year. “The difference here is that we have, if you will, skipped almost a year with the flu, it’s possible we could see multi-strain flu – we usually have one predominant strain,” she added.
Harries said there were four strains of the virus in this year’s flu shot, after taking advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI ) and turning to the countries of the southern hemisphere, where winter and therefore flu season arrives earlier.
“So we have a pretty good lineup in our toolbox to try and hit whoever gets dominant, but there could be more than one this year, and people’s immunity will be lower. So I think the real trick here is to get vaccinated against both Covid and the flu, but obviously to continue to adopt these good hygienic behaviors that we have practiced throughout Covid, ”added Harries.
Harries also said making children wear masks at school would not be high on his list of safe measures for Covid.
“I think the important thing is that we should make sure the kids aren’t in school if they’re really contagious. We have a very good testing program and we know that at the start of the quarter we were expecting an increase in the number of cases, ”she told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.
Harries also said that the dominance of the Delta variant in the world has caused other coronavirus variants to become extinct, but warned that we still need to “stay vigilant.”
The NHS aims to vaccinate a record 35 million people this winter, the most ambitious flu vaccination program in its history. Free flu shots are available for around 30 million frontline health and social workers, people aged 50 and over, children up to grade 11, pregnant women, and those at clinical risk .