It’s odd. It’s very odd that the flu, which has been with us for ever, suddenly disappeared last year.
Since I can remember, way back when I was a small child, the flu was always around. There was a flu season, I later learned, which came during the winter months; from about December through till February or March (where I lived, in UK).
I caught it now and then, and I knew people that also had it, including my friends, my siblings, and my mother. I recall my nan having it at one time too. I don’t know if my dad ever had it, but I’m sure he must have.
It was never pleasant, but certainly familiar to us all. Usually it was like a really bad cold with sickness on top. It wasn’t always accompanied with cold like symptoms though; sometimes you just felt quite awful, and threw up for several days. It was rough, but we always recovered. Chicken soup was the solution for it back then.
To be honest, I occasionally wished that I would catch it a little more often. It would have meant some time off school, staying in bed, getting extra attention and sympathy, and that delicious chicken soup.
There were always variants too, it was rarely the same; sometimes mild, sometimes worse. Famously, of course, there was Man-flu, which was almost a pandemic throughout the ’90s.
Whilst the flu was not a serious threat to most of us, in certain circumstances, for someone who was particularly frail for example, or already ill, it could be fatal. Vomiting causes dehydration, and that can make one very weak. For the elderly it could be a serious issue.
So what happened last year, 2020, that made the flu completely disappear?
According to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) generated on 20/11/2020, from around April until late November there were no cases of influenza virus at all around the world.
I took a look at the WHO’s site, and the influenza figures for 2019. Here is an example of one typical two week period in mid-June:
National Influenza Centres (NICs) and other national influenza laboratories from 91 countries, areas or territories reported data to FluNet for the time period from 10 June 2019 to 23 June 2019 (data as of 2019-07-04 13:50:17 UTC).The WHO GISRS laboratories tested more than 68851 specimens during that time period. 6853 were positive for influenza viruses, of which 4387 (64%) were typed as influenza A and 2466 (36%) as influenza B.
Peculiar, isn’t it, that in 2020 there was no flu at all during the same two week period? The 2019 results are also quite typical for any previous year; there was no panic over it, at least. No lockdowns or masking.
Here’s another example, from September 2019:
National Influenza Centres (NICs) and other national influenza laboratories from 84 countries, areas or territories reported data to FluNet for the time period from 19 August 2019 to 01 September 2019 (data as of 2019-09-13 05:05:32 UTC). The WHO GISRS laboratories tested more than 57132 specimens during that time period. 4097 were positive for influenza viruses, of which 2353 (57.4%) were typed as influenza A and 1744 (42.6%) as influenza B.
Here’s the link to the page, so you can check week by week for yourself, if you like:
Another interesting factor is that during 2019 the flu cases were much higher during some months. February, for example, yielded this:
National Influenza Centres (NICs) and other national influenza laboratories from 111 countries, areas or territories reported data to FluNet for the time period from 21 January 2019 to 03 February 2019 (data as of 2019-02-15 04:05:38 UTC). The WHO GISRS laboratories tested more than 213440 specimens during that time period. A total of 69007 were positive for influenza viruses, of which 67733 (98.2%) were typed as influenza A and 1274 (1.8%) as influenza B.
Almost 70,000 cases. The same period during 2020 shows less than 8,000 cases for the two weeks. Something strange is going on, isn’t it?
I’m not a detective, but I think this might be a clue: