As the relevance of SARS-2 recedes ever further, public health managers seek to apply the same risk magnification, testing, vaccination and hygiene regime to the flu.
Two weeks ago, NBC News posted a long and disturbing article about “What Covid taught scientists and the public about the flu.” It’s basically as bad as you can imagine. It taught them that “Flu transmission can be stopped” and thus that “Nonpharmaceutical interventions work,” that “Flu can spread via aerosols,” that “‘Long flu’ may be a risk,” that “Asymptomatic flu infections may be underappreciated” and that “People want to test – and they’re good at it.” In short, scientists have learned that if an excess of hygiene hysteria can be stirred up over one unremarkable virus, it can be stirred up over another, and there’s every reason to hope for a new pandemic party in the near future.
A great part of the article is written around the statements of an obscure virologist named Seema Lakdawala, who specialises in influenza and is eager to see Covidian approaches applied to her field:
Before Covid, experts put limited stock in so-called nonpharmaceutical — that is, nonvaccination — strategies for preventing flu transmission. While behaviors such as hand-washing, wearing masks and air filtration were considered good ideas, they weren’t believed to move the needle significantly in stopping the spread.
“Prior to the pandemic, we were very focused on promoting vaccination as the primary way to decrease transmission of flu,” said Seema Lakdawala, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory University in Atlanta. “Now what we realize is that, yes, vaccinations are really important, but additional measures can really bring down the public health burden of influenza.”
Before 2020, she said there had been a handful of studies attempting to measure how well these interventions work, but they were inconclusive. “Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, we now have conclusive evidence that mitigation strategies like masking, social distancing and staying home when you are ill can drastically impact the transmission of influenza viruses,” she said.
It also features Linsey Marr, an engineering professor at Virginia Tech who has spent most of the pandemic whining about airborne transmission and masks; and also recurrent plague chronicle villain Akiko Iwasaki, who is brought in to raise concerns about Long Flu:
“Covid is definitely not alone in having these long-term consequences, even after a mild infection,” she said. After the flu, it’s not unheard of to experience symptoms, especially lingering fatigue and brain fog.
According to Iwasaki, seasonal flu is less likely to cause lasting symptoms than pandemic flu strains like the 2009 H1N1 virus, but more research is needed to say for sure.
She said that for the 2009 pandemic flu and “even the 1918 flu, there are a lot of stories about people developing psychosis or neurological diseases over a long period.” …
If you start testing everyone for influenza, you’ll soon count hundreds of thousands of influenza deaths. From there, it’s a short leap to paranoia about asymptomatic transmission, followed by closures and vaccine mandates during every worse-than-average flu season. Arguments that the young and healthy should be spared these burdens, as they are little risk of dying from flu, will be shot out of the sky by vague appeals to Long Influenza….