Latest figures showed cases remained extremely low, with very few hospital admissions or GP appointments for patients suffering flu-like symptoms. Experts previously warned that flu could return with a vengeance after being kept at low levels due to Covid curbs. But Prof Gary McLean, an expert in molecular immunology at London Metropolitan University, said: “It certainly appears that there are very, very few influenza cases that have been identified through laboratory testing.
“If we think about what it looks like compared to the data from last year, there was no flu last year and it looks like again there’s going to be no flu this year.”
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) flu report for the week to January 2 revealed that of more than 6,000 samples from people with symptoms tested for influenza at 17 laboratories in England that reported data, only 33 were positive.
Prof McLean said it was hard to know why influenza cases remained so low when Covid infections were soaring. More cautious behaviour in recent weeks is likely to have played a role, along with high uptake of the flu vaccine.
Last summer, a stark report from the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) warned that between 15,000 and 60,000 people could die from flu this winter. Prof Dame Anne Johnson, president of the AMS, agreed that flu activity was “very limited” but said it was too early to know whether we will avoid a bad season.
She said: “I don’t think you can say that we won’t have more activity but there is limited activity.”
Dr Conall Watson, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA, warned: “The threat of flu hasn’t gone away this season. Flu is highly infectious. It can cause serious illness and it can be fatal. This is why I urge anyone who is eligible but hasn’t yet had their free flu vaccine to arrange an appointment now.”