BRITS could have been hit hardest by the coronavirus due to two mild flu seasons, researchers have revealed.
Covid-19 tore through European countries such as Spain and Italy before making its way to the UK and experts have now said Brits may have been more susceptible to the virus.
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Dr Chris Hope from the University of Cambridge claims that while flu intensity doesn’t explain everything he said it is a “plausible explanation” as to why the UK has suffered so severely.
So far in the UK over 44,000 people have died from Covid-19 and researchers have now claimed that the UK has fared worse than its European counterparts.
The experts from Cambridge’s Judge Business School, who usually specialise in policy modelling, said influenza kills the same demographic as Covid-19.
Throughout the pandemic the elderly and those with poor health and underlying health conditions have been hit the hardest – this is the same group that is also more susceptible to severe winter flu.
Data from the researchers showed a trend between high Covid death rates and less intense flu seasons.
For example, Belgium was hit hard by Covid but largely came away unscathed from winter flu.
The second-worst Covid death rate across Europe has been seen in England.
Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows that around 20,000 extra deaths occur each year from influenza.
Despite this, during the 2018/19 outbreak, there were only 1,700 extra fatalities.
Dr Hope said that 2019/20 has also been “very mild”.
Around 30,000 people had been expected to die in the last two flu seasons and instead may have died because of the coronavirus.
Dr Hope explained: “The paper does not seek to make judgements about whether individuals were fortunate or unfortunate with regard to flu or coronavirus, or to evaluate governments’ response to either illness.
“It simply reports my initial statistical findings as a policy modeller regarding the apparent statistical relationship between flu-season severity and Covid-19 deaths.
“The correlation with flu intensity can’t explain everything, or even most of the variation in Covid-19 deaths, but it does appear to be significant, and there is a plausible causation theory. Surely that warrants further investigation.”
Across Europe flu intensity is measured on a weekly basis.
This is conducted by the European Influenza Surveillance Network (EISN).
The paper looks specifically at flu intensity and Covid-19 deaths for the 32 European countries.
Out of all European countries Belgium has the highest death rate and also the highest flu intensity, bar Scotland.
This is measured by a trend line. The researchers use the EISN’s intensity model to map this.
One is the baseline and five is very high. They then use the mean value of the baseline for 32 countries in 35 weeks measured over two flu seasons, which they equate to 29.5.
This is while for Covid deaths the mean value for the 32 countries is 20.3 deaths per 100,000 of the population.
England is also above the trend line and sits at 33 per 100,000.
Italy is 35 per 100,000, France 30 and Ireland is 25.
This is compared to a country such as Sweden where the government pushed back stringent lockdown procedures.
Sweden has a Covid death rate of 16 per 100,000.
Countries that had deaths below the trend line include Germany and Norway.
The paper looks at the comparison between flu and Covid-19 and acknowledges that the data may be unreliable due to the fact that not all countries had the same prevention measures in place.
Dr Hope added: “Despite these shortcomings, the results do suggest that the relationship between Covid-19 deaths rates and previous flu intensity would be worth further and fuller investigation,”
“Further investigation should be able to determine whether the relationship is as significant as this first analysis suggests.”
Dr Hope also suggests that governments from the countries above the trend line need to look at what they have in common and adds that this could be due to a lack of reporting or lack of attention to care homes early on in the pandemic.