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These charts show a possible silver lining of the pandemic

Maybe this winter won’t be that bad after all.

As the United States and other Northern Hemisphere countries brace for a possible twindemic of COVID-19 and flu towards the end of the year, Southern Equator countries like Australia, Argentina and South Africa offer a ray of hope : They just had one of their mildest flu seasons.

These Economist charts show that the Southern Hemisphere, where the winter flu season runs from May to October, has seen a steep drop in the number of flu infections and deaths this year compared to the previous five years. The World Health Organization ran 200,000 flu tests in the first two weeks of August; only 46 were positive this year, compared to nearly 3,500 in a typical year.

And while some 86,000 Australians test positive for the flu on average between May and mid-August each year, with around 1

30 deaths, the government has only recorded 627 cases of the flu and a single death during the same window this year.

Take a look at some of the charts below.

The Economist and some health experts, including Dr Anthony Fauci, credit the social distancing and personal hygiene measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from also stemming the annual tide of influenza outbreaks in the Southern Hemisphere. There is concern, however, that as people become relaxed about wearing face masks and avoid the crowds, and schools and businesses reopen, the influence could spread. In fact, The Economist notes that influenza cases may still rise in the Southern Hemisphere this year and next as well, as fewer people have developed immunity to the strain this year.

So health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics are pushing for all Americans over 6 months of age to receive flu shots this year to further reduce their chances of getting sick. The US flu season generally begins in October before peaking between December and February. CDC Director Robert Redfield recently warned that America is bracing for “the worst public health fall we’ve ever had” if both COVID-19 and flu cases have overwhelmed hospitals. . The flu has sent between 140,000 and 810,000 Americans to hospital each year since 2010 and is responsible for between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths annually.

Related:Vaccinating children against the flu is “more important than ever” this year: pediatricians

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also cited the Southern Hemisphere’s historically mild flu season during a Congressional hearing on the nation’s coronavirus response Wednesday.

“If we keep doing what each of us has said – about the kind of preventative measures of wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding the crowds, washing our hands, etc. – if we do it as we enter the fall and winter, for of COVID-19, it is likely to have a positive impact on the flu infection rate, “he said. “Because our colleagues in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Australia, found out for this reason that they had a very, very low and mild flu season.”

So, if Americans practice these public health measures and get their flu shots, he said, “we hope we can have a very, very low level of flu that wouldn’t complicate what will clearly be a challenge in the winter with COVID-19.” .

Fauci at that same hearing had a heated exchange with Senator Rand Paul, accusing the Kentucky Republican of repeatedly “misunderstanding” COVID-19 research and “not listening to” the CDC.

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