Flu Is Now ‘Almost Wiped Out’ As Levels At Lowest In 130 Years

by : Emily Brown on : 01 Feb 2021 09:00
Flu Is Now 'Almost Wiped Out' As Levels At Lowest In 130 YearsPexels/PA Images

Medical experts have said the flu has been ‘almost completely wiped out’, as the number of people suffering from the illness has dropped to levels not seen in more than 130 years.

The peak of flu season typically occurs in the second week of January, when winter has really set in with its cold weather and blustery winds.


It’s not unusual for thousands of people to be hospitalised with flu symptoms during this period, but with February now upon us, new data appears to show that Brits largely managed to avoid flu season.

Woman blowing nosePixabay

Figures from the second week of January 2021, obtained by The Sunday Times, found that the number of people who reported influenza-like illnesses to their doctors was 1.1 per 100,000 people compared to a five-year average rate of 27 per 100,000 people, marking a drop of 95%.

Thanks to the drop in cases, the number of hospital admissions in England for the flu was zero as of mid-January.


John McCauley, director of the World Health Organization’s collaborating center in London, told The Times the staggering drop in numbers is ‘unprecedented’.

He said:

The last time we had evidence of such low rates was when we were still just counting influenza deaths, and that was in 1888, before the 1889-90 flu pandemic.


Simon de Lusignan, a professor of primary care at the University of Oxford, said influenza has now been ‘almost completely wiped out’, commenting, ‘I cannot think of a year this has happened.’

The huge drop in numbers has largely been credited to the coronavirus outbreak and the resulting measures put in place to prevent the spread. With most members of the public now keeping their distance from one another, wearing face masks and being increasingly aware of their personal hygiene, the flu virus has struggled to survive.

Covid Vaccine Card Will Be Given To Every UK Patient After They Get VaccinatedPA Images

Scientists hope that the disruption to typical cold, flu and virus seasons over the past year could help reveal new information about the behaviour and transmission of the illnesses, though McCauley has noted that the drop in flu cases makes things more difficult for the scientists who develop vaccines against it as there are very few samples to work from.


The director explained:

It’s a nightmare to work out what comes next. If you have flu away for a year, then immunity will have waned. It could come back worse.

Though increased restrictions among members of the public have been successful in fighting off the flu, they have been less successful in stemming the coronavirus outbreak, which has resulted in almost four million positive cases in the UK so far.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Health, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Now, UK


The Sunday Times
  1. The Sunday Times