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Prediction of upcoming global infection burden of influenza seasons after relaxation of public health and social measures during the COVID-19 pandemic: a modelling study.

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Ali, Sheikh Taslim 
Lau, Yiu Chung 
Shan, Songwei 
Ryu, Sukhyun 
Du, Zhanwei 


BACKGROUND: The transmission dynamics of influenza were affected by public health and social measures (PHSMs) implemented globally since early 2020 to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. We aimed to assess the effect of COVID-19 PHSMs on the transmissibility of influenza viruses and to predict upcoming influenza epidemics. METHODS: For this modelling study, we used surveillance data on influenza virus activity for 11 different locations and countries in 2017-22. We implemented a data-driven mechanistic predictive modelling framework to predict future influenza seasons on the basis of pre-COVID-19 dynamics and the effect of PHSMs during the COVID-19 pandemic. We simulated the potential excess burden of upcoming influenza epidemics in terms of fold rise in peak magnitude and epidemic size compared with pre-COVID-19 levels. We also examined how a proactive influenza vaccination programme could mitigate this effect. FINDINGS: We estimated that COVID-19 PHSMs reduced influenza transmissibility by a maximum of 17·3% (95% CI 13·3-21·4) to 40·6% (35·2-45·9) and attack rate by 5·1% (1·5-7·2) to 24·8% (20·8-27·5) in the 2019-20 influenza season. We estimated a 10-60% increase in the population susceptibility for influenza, which might lead to a maximum of 1-5-fold rise in peak magnitude and 1-4-fold rise in epidemic size for the upcoming 2022-23 influenza season across locations, with a significantly higher fold rise in Singapore and Taiwan. The infection burden could be mitigated by additional proactive one-off influenza vaccination programmes. INTERPRETATION: Our results suggest the potential for substantial increases in infection burden in upcoming influenza seasons across the globe. Strengthening influenza vaccination programmes is the best preventive measure to reduce the effect of influenza virus infections in the community. FUNDING: Health and Medical Research Fund, Hong Kong.



COVID-19, Humans, Influenza, Human, Pandemics, Public Health, Seasons

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Lancet Glob Health

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Elsevier BV
European Commission Horizon 2020 (H2020) ERC (804744)