Experts say decline in infections could justify continued use of hand sanitiser and masks following coronavirus pandemic
Thousands of swab samples are processed and analysed by scientists at Public Health England (PHE) every week to survey the prevalence of different respiratory diseases in the population.
But of the 685,243 samples that have been reviewed at PHE’s laboratories since the first week of January, not a single one has tested positive for influenza.
In the week up to 31 December 2020, just one case of flu was confirmed by laboratory analysis.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, head of flu at PHE, told The Independent: “The decrease in flu cases this year is likely due to changes in our behaviour, such as social distancing, face coverings and handwashing, as well as the reduction in international travel.
“In England, more than 15 million people receive the flu jab every year, which helps protect them from flu and also stops them spreading it to others.
“This season’s immunisation programme is on track to be the most successful ever, with the highest levels of vaccine uptake recorded for those 65 years and over, 2- and 3-year-olds and healthcare workers.”
PHE runs nationwide surveillance of influenza all year round, and produces a weekly report on the virus and other respiratory illnesses between October and April to capture activity during peak flu season.