Each year, health experts look to the southern hemisphere to get an idea on how the flu season in the northern hemisphere may play out.
The reason being that the flu season runs its course between June and August below the equator, giving experts a better idea of the strains that will circulating in those areas above the equator during their flu season. It also adds insight into how intense the flu may possibly be when it starts to uptick in early November.
As fate would have it, this year the southern hemisphere has seen what is being called a historically low to inactive flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is been “virtually no influenza circulation” beneath the equator reported.
How is this possible? Infectious disease experts feel the reason for this decrease in flu circulation lies primarily in how similar COVID-19 and the flu in their transmission, and as such, prevented. The two viruses are known to spread in the same way.
With the current precautions in place for the coronavirus pandemic—such as wearing masks, social distancing, and teleworking—the flu below the equator never really had a chance to strike and take hold this year, unlike previous years before.
With that said, although the viruses are similar in spread, there are still some key differences. With this knowledge, you will be better able to prevent contraction and prevention of both forms, as well as being able to determine which of the two you may possibly be suffering from.
We already know that both viruses are spread significantly by way of respiratory droplets. However, just recently it was confirmed that COVID-19 can be transmitted by airborne droplets that hang in the air for hours after expulsion.
Both viruses can present with what are termed super spreader events. A super spreader event is where one individual who has contracted the virus has then spread it to several other individuals.
Both COVID-19 and the flu have been confirmed to have the possibility of being super spreader events. The primary difference with COVID-19 lies in the fact that the current population has less immunity to the coronavirus than they do to the flu.
Finally, there is the issue of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals in relation to COVID-19. In recent weeks, studies have show that as many as 40%-50% of those individuals that are infected with the coronavirus present with no physical symptoms but are still highly contagious.
By knowing the difference of how the two viruses spread, will we be able to get a better handle COVID-19.