It is the definitive proof that we have ended the covid pandemic

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Yesterday, Castile and Leon officially entered in influenza epidemic. In Navarra already there are more admissions for the flu that by covid. Madrid has started to detect a significant rise in cases and, today, the Generalitat of Catalonia has shown his concern about the “vertical” progression of cases and his fear for the elderly and vulnerable population. It is not for less. It is the first time that the flu has become an epidemic in two years and that brings a lot of problems, but also good news: the pandemic, as we know it, is over.


The flu is here. In just one week, which was from February 28 to March 6, the flu went from the discreet background that it has occupied for these two years to start calling at the doors of the emergency room. Since then, the figures have only grown and, although the epidemiological bulletins of the different autonomous communities are not yet available, the news that arrives from hospitals, health centers and ministries makes us fear the worst.

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In the absence of those data, the ones we have (the increase in the rate of acute respiratory infections, which includes covid, influenza and human respiratory syncytial virus) shows a rebound up to 662 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Rebound that is concentrated, especially, in those under 15 years of age (1,847 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in children between 0 and 4 years old, and 790 cases in children between 5 and 14 years old). What we do know is that the flu went from 9.8% positivity to 37.5% in just one week.

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An ineffective vaccine. But that is not the most problematic. After all, it was something that had to happen at some point and the fact that it was delayed works in our favor (due to the seasonality of the disease). The biggest problem is that most of the samples analyzed are of the AH3 type. A guy who according to the latest ECDC report (European Public Health Centre), has been shown to be antigenically different from the group to which the virus used to make this season’s vaccine belongs.

We must not forget that the flu vaccine is made each year by analyzing the strains that move around the world during the previous months. Because the social isolation measures worked so well, the flu disappeared from circulation (and, in fact, some lineages died out altogether). Under these circumstances, researchers have had serious problems identifying the dangerous strains, and the result is that the vaccine will have limited effectiveness. Something especially worrying, as the Generalitat said, in older and especially vulnerable patients.

We have finished with two variants of the flu in 18 months due to the use of masks and the rest of social distance measures

What about the masks? While some experts have launched into prevent withdrawal of masks in this context, what the seasonal flu epidemic tells us is that those warnings come too late. The truth is that beyond the legal “mandatory” nature of the mask, these data show that social distancing measures are not working. If they were being effective, the flu would have no room to sneak in.

The end of the pandemic? This is the big question. It is true that the incidence of COVID is going up (at least in 11 communities), but the growth is so small that everything suggests that, de facto, the pandemic has ended in Spain. Mass vaccinations, the natural immunity of those infected and the low virulence of current variants have completely removed the virus from the public agenda. There is no doubt that new variants may still appear and that the pandemic is still active in many parts of the world, but it is clear that we have entered a new phase. Who would have imagined that it was going to be the flu, precisely the flu, that would herald all this?

Image | Manu Fernandez/AP

Yesterday, Castile and Leon officially entered in influenza epidemic. In Navarra already there are more admissions for the flu that…

Yesterday, Castile and Leon officially entered in influenza epidemic. In Navarra already there are more admissions for the flu that…

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