Home Health News Certain Strains Of Flu May Have Gone Extinct Because Of Pandemic Safety Measures : NPR

Certain Strains Of Flu May Have Gone Extinct Because Of Pandemic Safety Measures : NPR

10 min read

NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks with Stat News’ Helen Branswell about how pandemic precautions like masking might have eradicated sure strains of the flu, which might imply flu pictures will probably be simpler to make.


Here’s an sudden upside to the pandemic. For greater than a yr, we have masked up restricted social interactions, skipped holidays. Those efforts had been meant to maintain the coronavirus at bay. And now scientists say these actions additionally might have pushed sure strains of the flu to extinction. That might make it a lot simpler to develop flu vaccines within the coming years. Helen Branswell wrote about this for STAT and joins us now. Welcome.


SHAPIRO: To start with some background, remind us. The flu isn’t just one sort of virus. There are a number of strains.

BRANSWELL: That’s proper. You know, your listeners might know that yearly after they get a flu shot that it protects towards three or 4 totally different strains of flu. There’s H1N1, which they will know from the 2009 pandemic. There’s H3N2. And there are two elements that shield towards influenza B viruses – B/Victoria and B/Yamagata.

SHAPIRO: And so I assume every year the individuals who develop flu vaccines type of need to – I do not know – make an informed guess about which strains are going to be circulating that yr. And in the event that they’re incorrect – I imply, you report that in a current yr, as much as three quarters of people that received the shot truly weren’t immunized towards the flu.

BRANSWELL: Yeah. So what they need to do is type of look inside every class of viruses to see which strains are probably the most dominant. But they’re doing it months upfront. Like, for our flu shot within the Northern Hemisphere, they’re deciding in February what ought to go into the flu shot we’ll get the next autumn. So they need to look and see what appears to be dominant, what appears to be receding and make some decisions. But it has been very exhausting in recent times, significantly with H3N2 viruses as a result of they have been so various. And understanding which goes to be the dominant pressure the subsequent winter has been actually powerful. But it now looks as if, you understand, the range has been diminished as a result of there’s been so little circulation of the viruses.

SHAPIRO: So how does a pressure of the flu go extinct?

BRANSWELL: Well, they need to proceed to contaminate folks, or they will not – you understand, they do not simply type of dwell on the market. They need to cross from person to person to live on. And due to the measures we have been taking within the pandemic – the distancing, the masking, closing of faculties can be huge as a result of children are main amplifiers of flu. But one other factor that can have had a giant impact on this would be the large discount in worldwide journey. You know, flu strikes from the Southern Hemisphere of their winter and our summer season to the Northern Hemisphere when it is our flu season. And that simply does not appear to have been occurring to the diploma that it usually does. And as a consequence, there are simply fewer of those viruses round.

SHAPIRO: So what does that imply for growing a vaccine?

BRANSWELL: Well, it is early at this level. You know, the scientists who’re this are actually . And they’re hoping that a few of these strains have gone extinct, but it surely’s nonetheless early days. I imply, they will have to observe that for some time to really feel assured that they are surely gone.

SHAPIRO: Does this discovering recommend that possibly even after this pandemic is over, folks ought to contemplate carrying masks and taking a few of the different health precautions we have gotten used to, particularly throughout chilly and flu season?

BRANSWELL: You know, I feel there are going to be lots of people who’re going to consider that. You know, a few of the precautions that we have taken to suppress COVID aren’t sustainable or fascinating.

SHAPIRO: Sure. We’re not going to maintain faculties closed.

BRANSWELL: Exactly. We’re not preserving faculties closed. International journey will return ultimately. So a few of these issues will fall away and will fall away. Now, you understand, ought to individuals who aren’t feeling nicely subsequent winter keep residence from work? Probably. Should individuals who have sick children maintain them residence from college? Definitely. And ought to folks be occupied with carrying a masks? You know, I feel that can rely upon a person’s stage of consolation. I imply, clearly, there are individuals who cannot wait to doff their masks, and there are others who’re hesitant about it. So I feel we’ll in all probability see a combination going ahead.

SHAPIRO: Helen Branswell is a senior author at STAT masking infectious ailments and world health. Thanks to your reporting.

BRANSWELL: Nice to speak to you.

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