21st Dec 2020 @ 11:44 am

Hand-washing, distancing and face masks may be effective against Covid-19, but they’re also helping to keep flu at bay on the Canaries, with vaccines also appearing to play an important role.

In the Canaries, as in many other parts of Europe, flu season usually starts in December, then soars after Christmas to reach a peak in late January and February. That’s what happens most years, but not this season.

Amós García, head of epidemiology at the public health department of the Canarian Health Service, has told Canarias7 that “Flu  isn’t here , and we don’t expect it to be” García says the reason for this may be the increased uptake of the flu vaccine.  This winter, 289,624 Canarians have received flu jabs, a 60% increase on last year’s total of 181,455.

However, vaccinations are usually only given to older patients, while the vast majority of flu cases are reported in children.

“It’s to be expected that all these factors will affect the impact of flu on the most vulnerable,” says García, “However, we mustn’t let our guard down.”

The Canarian Sentinel Network has also stated that flu cases would have been expected by now, but have not been reported yet. Nevertheless,  they believe that this may have to do with health professionals concentrating on Covid-19. “There will be the odd case,” said a spokesperson, “But we don’t think the flu virus is circulating.”

Last winter’s flu season cost 36 lives on the Canaries* , fewer than a tenth of the fatalities attributed to Covid-19 on the islands so far this year. Of those deaths, 23 were over 65, 12 were aged from 15 to 65 and one was a child. Flu cases reached a 7-day rate of just under 300 cases per 100,000 people in mid- February, before falling away. However, many cases of flu go undiagnosed or unreported.

Amós García recommends the flu vaccine for those who haven’t had it yet, and believes that it is the most effective measure to avoid flu for those likely to suffer complications.

*INFORME DE VIGILANCIA DE GRIPE EN CANARIAS, TEMPORADA 2019 – 2020.  Servicio de Epidemiología y Prevención. Dirección General de Salud Pública.