As the COVID-19 pandemic eases it's grip on our nation, we're all enjoying counting the things that are coming back. Concerts, restaurants, and other group activities. But perhaps we should also be thankful for something that isn't coming back, at least not the same. Influenza. No, the flu isn't gone, but the pandemic might have just made it easier to treat in the future.

One of the most difficult things about creating a flu vaccine each year is all the different strains of Influenza A. In fact over the past decade, there were so many different variants that it became difficult to create an effective vaccine. Statnews reports that during the 2017-2018 flu season, the vaccine failed to protect three quarters of vaccinated people in the U.S. against the H3N2 strain.

But the COVID pandemic brought things like mask wearing, social distancing, school closures and travel restrictions. Statnews reports that those mitigation efforts against COVID also brought influenza transmission rates to historically low levels. So low in fact that certain H3N2 variants have disappeared. So have two variants of Influenza B. Neither has been seen in over one year!

Now while all this information is great news, it doesn't mean we've beaten the flu. But it does mean it might be easier to treat it going forward. Statnews says that if the global pool of flu viruses has actually shrunk down this far, it would make the selection of viruses included in vaccines much easier. Some experts also say that just because certain variants haven't been seen in months, doesn't mean they aren't still out there hiding somewhere.


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