Comedians say that this year there’s been an unprecedented use of the word unprecedented. To show that coronavirus doesn’t have exclusive rights to hyperbole, here’s another unprecedented finding to consider: over the last seven weeks there hasn’t been a single positive case of influenza in Thailand.
This may only be relatively unprecedented (public records don’t go back beyond the start of 2017) but in the last 150+ weeks not once has has there been zero cases of the flu. And now seven weeks in a row without a flu case – in the rainy season too, when typically more respiratory infections are seen than at any other time of the year.
If there’s one thing that the coverage of Covid-19 has taught it’s that any declaration of ‘no positives’ must be viewed in terms of how many tests are being done and this year there have indeed been far fewer flu tests made than in the same period last year (134 vs 510), with zero positives compared to 159 in the same seven weeks last year.
This could mean that there are no cases of influenza to investigate at the moment – not impossible given that the hygiene measures put in place against Covid-19 are likely to be effective against the spread of flu virus also, particularly hand hygiene, distancing and school closures.
On the other hand it may be that there’s just less flu testing this year because so many resources are being directed against Covid-19 instead. Patients who would normally be tested and found positive for flu are those presenting with heavy respiratory symptoms and this year all such cases will come directly under the Covid-19 protocols. Once that condition has been excluded there may be neither the resources nor the appetite to take things any further.
Whatever the reason behind these seven straight zeros, it’s a rare observation and one to keep an unprecedented eye on!