Two strains of flu may have gone extinct thanks to the coronavirus pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic has been a pretty miserable time for most, but there may be some good news to come from it. Experts believe two strains of seasonal flu have gone due to social distancing measures put in place over the last 16 months.

Specifically, the strains known as the Yamagata lineage of influenza B, and the 3c3 clade of the influenza A H3N2 virus have gone.

Since March 2020, neither flu strain has been detected by experts.

Each year, experts across the planet monitor the evolution of seasonal flu by taking samples from infected patients.

This allows them to predict how big a possible outbreak will be and prepare vaccines specifically.

However, since March of last year, researchers have not been able to monitor the two flu types influenza B and influenza A H3N2.

This might mean that the strains have gone extinct thanks to social distancing measures.

With many people spending large swathes of the last year in lockdown or adhering to social distancing guidelines, it would have made it harder for the flu to pass on from people.

Ultimately, when it runs out of victims, it would have died out.

Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told STAT News: “I think it has a decent chance that it’s gone. But the world’s a big place”

However, there is a caveat. It may just be that many people are not going to the hospital when they have flu out of fear of catching COVID-19.

Florian Krammer, a flu expert at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, said: “Just because nobody saw it doesn’t mean it has disappeared completely, right?”

However, she added: “But it could [have gone]”.

Richard Webby, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds, said that whether these flu strains have gone or not is still up for debate.

But he did say that the way viruses circulate could be different going forward.

He told STAT News: “Without doubt this is definitely going to change something in terms of the diversity of flu viruses out there.

“The extent to which it changes and how long it stays changed are the big question marks. But we have never seen this before.”

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