The Guardian reports on what may happen when the annual winter flu epidemic mixes with the COVID-19 pandemic this coming fall.
The first problem will be figuring out which virus a patient has. Flu, Covid-19 and other seasonal respiratory diseases are virtually indistinguishable on the basis of symptoms, warns Barbara Rath of the University of Nottingham: even the loss of taste and smell many people get with Covid-19 is not unique. We need more and better diagnostic tests, she says, because the difference matters: medical staff need full protective gear to manage a Covid patient, but they can be vaccinated for flu.
The real unknown is what Covid-19 does around other viruses. Every autumn there is a predictable series of outbreaks of respiratory viruses. It starts with rhinovirus, the main cause of the common cold, which breaks out every September as young children go to school and swap mucus. As no parent needs to be told, children are to sniffles what mosquitoes are to malaria.