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Winter Flu – 'Perfect Storm’ Could Cause Business Closures

Winter Flu – 'Perfect Storm’ Could Cause Business Closures
17 August 2022 | Updated 28 September 2022
 

Experts are predicting widespread staff absence rates this autumn due to a “perfect storm” of COVID-19 and early flu season.

This so-called “perfect storm” is thanks to an early and more severe than usual flu season. Transmission patterns in Australia, usually an indication of what’s to come in the UK, are at their worst for more than five years.

 

Early Flu Season Predicted in UK

 

Mirroring this, a flu season starting as early as September is predicted in the UK. Lowered immunity is also a concern given that the UK hasn’t had a “usual” flu season since 2020, due to lockdowns and COVID-19 preventative measures.

Dr D. L. Webber, a microbiologist, is urging businesses to start putting preventative steps into place now, in order to protect their workforces. Mask wearing, good hand hygiene, workplace cleaning practices, as well as air cleaning technology, could all play a part, according to Dr Webber:

“The main effect of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions on other airborne viruses is the reduction in influenza we’ve seen over the past two – three years. Heading into the back of this year, I would expect a significant rise in flu cases driven by international travel and lowered immunity, which may lead to potentially severe seasonal epidemics.  

“The main reason for this is because low transmission rates during recent flu seasons mean we have a lack of information on which flu variants to include in any vaccine programme. Furthermore, low-flu seasons might kill off less-common variants of influenza, making the choice of strains for future vaccines more difficult.  

“Pair this with rising coronavirus infections, and the usual seasonal rise in infection rates of common colds, I would expect a bigger than average rise in absenteeism.  

“I would urge businesses to prepare now, especially those that are already struggling with a shortage of staff – in a worst-case scenario, it could be the case that some businesses will have to temporarily close their doors.” 

Echoing the sentiments of Dr Webber, Susan Hopkins, the Chief Medical Adviser at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), recently told a webinar hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine: "We are planning for an influenza wave. I don’t know if people are following Australia, but we are watching very, very carefully. 

“They have had their worst influenza season for more than five years. It started earlier and it rose very, very fast in all age groups, so we are expecting that we will see an early influenza wave. 

“While we normally don’t see influenza really kick off until the end of November to December, that might happen as early as late September-October – that’s what we’re planning for.” 

Picture: a photograph of a person putting on a face covering. Image Credit: Unsplash

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 17 August 2022

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