Zero cases of influenza diagnosed in The Netherlands this winter
Not a single positive case of influenza was diagnosed in the Netherlands this winter. This became apparent in the data collected by general practitioners, which structurally analyze samples for the presence of viruses based on figures from the Nivel knowledge institute, which monitors the spread of respiratory viruses in the Netherlands together with the national health institute RIVM. This was reported in the national newspaper AD.
“We are not tracking the influenza virus as well as the coronavirus, but everything indicates that the circulation of influenza has stopped. We do not find it in the samples from GPs, and the virus is not found in hospitals either”, says Mariëtte Hooiveld of the Nivel institute.
The Nivel figures show that people with flu-like symptoms visited the doctor, but it was not once confirmed that it actually involved the current flu viruses. Instead, it often turns out to be Covid-19, rhino, or the enterovirus.
In the rest of Western and Northern Europe, almost no cases of flu were diagnosed this winter. “Although flu has been continuously tested, the number of cases is smaller than expected everywhere. In February and March 2020, influenza was on the rise in the Northern Hemisphere, which is normal for the time. But from mid-March, when corona really took off, the number of flu cases suddenly showed a sharp drop. Since then, the influenza virus has been at a low level,” a spokesman for the World Health Organization WHO told AD.
Air traffic comes to a standstill
Experts say that the major decline in international air travel may have had a major impact on the number of flu cases, as well as the increase in the number of people vaccinated against the flu this season.
However, the flu virus will never disappear completely. “There is always influenza, as there will always be corona,” predicts virologist Ab Osterhaus in the newspaper. He even expects the virus to potentially resurface next winter once the corona measures are released. “Compare it to an enemy army losing a battle, then retreating from the battlefield to find a new strategy hidden in the bushes. After such a period, a virus can strike harder,” says Osterhaus.