With the possibility of both seasonal influenza and COVID-19 contributing to respiratory disease burden in many countries, it is increasingly important to monitor global influenza activity. Enhanced surveillance of influenza will provide essential information for decision-making pertaining to prevention and response strategies to ultimately curb morbidity and mortality rates.
In BlueDot’s latest COVID-19 Focus Report, we introduce two existing data sources for global influenza surveillance provided by the World Health Organization (WHO). Based on these data sources we highlight insights on the current influenza activity in the Southern Hemisphere, using Australia as an example. Finally, we compare and contrast similarities and differences between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, to provide some clues as to what the upcoming influenza season might look like in the Northern Hemisphere amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Highlights from BlueDot’s COVID-19 Focus Report on Influenza
- Will the overlap of seasonal influenza and COVID-19 result in an increased respiratory disease burden this winter? This is exactly the sort of question BlueDot aims to answer.
- It’s a particularly difficult question because of the different strategies used to monitor influenza (via sentinel surveillance) versus COVID-19
- Our teams have analyzed data sources for global influenza surveillance from the World Health Organization, paying specific attention to how the 2020 flu season progressed in Australia.
- In short, the influenza season typically expected in Australia did NOT occur in 2020.
- Reduced global air travel, preventive measures to control COVID-19, and increased influenza vaccination coverage may lead to a reduction in flu activity in the northern hemisphere this season.
- However, regional differences in COVID-19 transmission, policy measures to limit spread, and differences in reopening stages across geographies mean it will be important to monitor seasonal influenza activity concurrently with COVID-19.