Flu News Day, 11/2/2022
November 2nd’s Flu News Day discusses how researchers have found coinfection by influenza A virus and respiratory syncytial virus produces hybrid virus particles, and further an article from Vox explains why “everybody you know is sick right now”. Read here to catch up on the latest in influenza news and funding.
Coinfection by influenza A virus and respiratory syncytial virus produces hybrid virus particles
Researchers from a new study found influenza A and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) to fuse together to form a single, hybrid virus. The new pathogen was discovered during a lab-based experiment designed to analyze interactions between viruses during infection, to better understand clinical outcomes and pathogen behavior. Researchers found the hybrid pathogen to spread into cells that lacked influenza receptors, allowing influenza A to move further down the respiratory tract into the lungs potentially leading to more severe infections. The research indicates that there could be severe consequences of coinfections dependent on the viruses involved, as they trigger virus-specific cellular responses. Influenza A causes more than five million hospitalizations each year while RSV is a leading cause of acute lower respiratory tract infection among children under five. You can read more about the new study and what the researchers found in their experiment here.
Avian influenza: unprecedented number of summer cases in Europe
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported an unprecedented number of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus detections across 16 European countries and the UK between June and September. This would mark the largest epidemic observed in Europe with more than 2,467 outbreaks in poultry and 47.7 million birds culled. The contagious HPAI virus occurs primarily in birds and can substantially affect mortality in domestic poultry. However, the risk of infection is generally low for human populations with marginally elevated risk among occupationally exposed people. Last year, the virus crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time spreading to North America from Europe causing outbreaks in Canada and the US, increasing mortality in wild birds. The EFSA has recommended large scale surveillance and biosecurity measures for early detection of HPAI. You can read more about EFSA’s report and recommendations here.
Why everybody you know is sick right now
The US has seen cases of influenza trending well above the yearly average even before the typical flu season began. By mid-October, 950,000 weekly cases were being reported compared to around 400,000 at the same time in 2019. Of particular concern is the increase in the number of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases. RSV affects children and the elderly the most severely and can cause bronchiolitis. While the reported cases are low (600 in 2022 compared to 400 in 2021), it does not reflect the actual burden since RSV diagnosis is not typically confirmed via a laboratory test. A possible surge in COVID-19 cases along with a second wave of influenza and increase in RSV cases could cause significant strains on hospitals across the country. According to CDC estimates, there have already been at least 880,000 cases of influenza illness, 6,900 hospitalizations and 360 flu-related deaths nationally, including one child. You can read more about what experts have to say about this year’s influenza season here.
Plea to vaccinate children against flu as hospitalisations rise in England
With experts predicting an increase in levels of influenza, COVID-19 and RSV cases, parents in the UK are being urged to get their young children vaccinated against flu. Data released from UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show hospitalization rates among under-fives to have almost doubled in the span of two weeks. UKHSA data also suggests that less than 18% of children in England aged two and three years have had their flu shots this season. Experts are concerned that there could be a combination of increase in COVID-positive cases in the winter combined with increase in levels of both flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) burden. While COVID-19 cases have declined in England in the past few months, data suggests an increase in RSV infection levels and hospitalization admission rates. You can read more about new data released by the UKHSA here.