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GreekReporter.comEuropeThe Twindemic: the Flu and Covid-19 are Spreading Simultaneously

The Twindemic: the Flu and Covid-19 are Spreading Simultaneously

The flu has returned to Europe as Omicron spreads in early 2022. Credit: Vasiliki Chletsi/Greek Reporter

The flu has returned to Europe after temporarily being supplanted by Covid-19 last year. Countries are now on alert for the potential of a “twindemic,” a concurrent surge in flu cases and Covid-19 cases that could wreak havoc in hospitals.

Covid had pushed influenza aside last year, becoming the dominant infection across the globe. But now the flu is spreading through Europe at “a higher than expected rate,” according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Pasi Penttinen, the ECDC’s primary expert on the flu, said that “If we start to lift all measures, the big concern I have for influenza is that, because we have had such a long time of almost no circulation in the European population, maybe we will shift away from normal seasonal patterns.”

Europe is now confronted with the prospect of a twindemic as it struggles to manage the fight against the Omicron variant. The World Health Organization announced last week that more than half of Europe’s population is likely to be infected with Omicron in the next two months:

“At this rate, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that more than 50% of the population in the region will be infected with omicron in the next six to eight weeks,” said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.

Europe braces for difficult Covid spring

The WHO includes 53 countries and territories in its categorization of Europe. Kluge explained on Tuesday that 50 of these 53 areas have confirmed cases of Omicron.

The WHO says that 26 of those countries and territories had reported that more than 1% of their populations were “catching COVID-19 each week.” The European region has had more than seven million new infections in the first week of 2022.

Kluge told reporters that data confirms that omicron is more transmissible and “the mutations it has enable it to adhere to human cells more easily, and it can infect even those who have been previously infected or vaccinated.”

He added that “approved vaccines do continue to provide good protection against severe disease and death, including for Omicron.”

WHO Europe expects 700,000 more people to die from coronavirus across 53 countries within the coming months.

“Today, the COVID-19 situation across Europe and Central Asia is very serious. We face a challenging winter ahead, but we should not be without hope, because all of us — governments, health authorities, individuals — can take decisive action to stabilize the pandemic,” Kluge said in a statement.

Europe is currently in the throes of one of the most intense Covid waves the region has seen since the start of the pandemic. Experts believe that this surge has been worsened by a combination of the waning strength of Covid vaccines administered earlier in the year and the highly contagious Delta variant.

“We can expect that there will be high or extreme stress on hospital beds in 25 countries, and high or extreme stress in intensive care units (ICUs) in 49 out of 53 countries between now and March 1, 2022,” read a statement issued by WHO Europe. “Cumulative reported deaths are projected to reach over 2.2 million by spring next year, based on current trends.”

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