Could ‘TRIPLE infections’ sweep Britain this winter? Experts warn pandemic lockdowns have left society vulnerable to flu and other common seasonal illnesses striking at same time as Covid
- Concerns came amid a reports of American children catching multiple viruses
- Some experts attributed this rise to Covid restrictions wearing down immunity
- Now UK scientists say similar triple infections could hit some Britons this winter
More Britons than ever are at risk of triple-infections this year because lockdowns have suppressed our immune systems, scientists warn.
Leading virologists fear a bad flu outbreak ahead because the virus was effectively drowned out by restrictions deployed to fight Covid, meaning the nation has little immunity against it.
But the endless cycle of virus-controlling curbs have also left society vulnerable to other seasonal illnesses, such as RSV and adenovirus.
And Covid is also expected to continue circulating.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, said a bad flu year would inevitably ‘raise the risk of triple infections’.
It comes after US doctors claimed children were turning up to clinics infected with three viruses at the same time, in what was claimed to be a result of Covid policies weakening their immune system.
One expert said it was ‘not typical for any time of year’.
A rise in triple-infections among American children whose immunity has dropped due to lockdowns has sparked warnings the UK could be in for a similar spike in common winter bugs (stock image)
Children are turning up in doctors’ clinics infected with as many as three different types of viruses, in what experts believe is the result of their immune systems being weakened from two years of Covid lockdowns and mask-wearing.
Medical staff have come to expect a surge in cases of flu and severe colds during the winter.
But they are reporting that there is not the usual downturn as summer approaches – and they suspect it could be due to the strict pandemic practices.
Furthermore, some of common strains of the flu appear to have disappeared, flummoxing scientists.
Professor Thomas Murray, an infection-control expert of paediatrics at Yale, told The Washington Post on Monday that his team was seeing children with combinations of seven common viruses – adenovirus, rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus, influenza and parainfluenza, as well as the coronavirus.
Some children were admitted with two viruses and a few with three, he said.
‘That’s not typical for any time of year and certainly not typical in May and June,’ he said.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data obtained by MailOnline showed lower overall levels of influenza infections among young children – but an abnormal surge starting several weeks ago during the beginning of the summer months, normally a dead period for respiratory infections.
Professor Thomas Murray, an infection-control expert and expert in paediatrics at Yale, told The Washington Post they were seeing children with combinations of adenovirus, rhinovirus, RSV, human metapneumovirus, flu, parainfluenza and Covid itself.
He added: ‘That’s not typical for any time of year and certainly not typical in May and June.’
CDC statistics show there has been an abnormal surge in flu, starting several weeks ago.
It occurred during the beginning of the summer months, normally a dead period for respiratory infections.
Professor Hunter said considering what is happening overseas, Britain could be at risk of a similar pattern of triple-infections.
‘I believe Australia is suffering a surge in influenza at the moment. and we know that if Australia gets it bad during our summer, we get it bad the following winter,’ he said.
‘It’s not unreasonable to expect that we will have a bad flu year this year and raise the risk of triple or co-infections.’
He explained that with common seasonal bugs like colds and flus people get infected then enjoy a period of enhanced protection with their immune system then on guard against the viruses.
‘It could be as short as a couple of years, but it could be a bit longer,’ he said.
‘This is the case with other coronaviruses, influenza, norovirus and adenoviruses for example.’
But Professor Hunter added if people are isolated away from these viruses for a long period, like what occurred during two years of on-and off-lockdowns, this protection was greatly diminished.
‘If you are then not exposed to viruses for a long time, you lose your immunity to infection and you are more susceptible when society opens again, and you can be exposed to multiple viral infection at same time,’ he said.
‘It also means when you are exposed, if the gap has been long enough, you might also get more ill than you would have otherwise.’
He added it was unclear if any such infections were happening in the UK currently however said it was likely ‘inevitable’.
‘Almost inevitably there will be someone somewhere, and likely more than one person, with a dual infection. And I’d bet one of them is Covid,’ he said.
Dr Simon Clarke, a cellular microbiologist at the University of Reading said triple infections were ‘unusual but not unheard of’.
He also said it was more likely the UK would experience these infections during the winter but added we could also see a low level of cases now.
‘You’d expect flu and colds to increase during the winter so there’s more chance of it happening during the winter but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility you might see relatively low levels in summer,’ he said.
Dr Clarke also said lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions would have reduced our immunity to these viruses but added this was still best outcome compared to letting Covid rip through the population.
‘It’s an unintended consequence… but the cost of doing it this way is lower than not doing it,’ he said.
He added that while triple infections may occur, they most likely wouldn’t result in severe illness with both Covid and flu jabs offering good protection from two possible bugs.
The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency which runs to until June 5 considers influenza cases in England to be low however cases of some cold and respiratory viruses have been on the rise.
Last year flu was predicted to bring the NHS to its knees due to concerns about it and Covid circulating at the same time and fears of waning immunity due to lockdown. However, this did not come to pass.
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