Flu cases significantly down in Southern Hemisphere

Countries in the Southern Hemisphere are reporting low numbers of flu and other seasonal viruses, which could offer a sliver of hope for U.S. hospitals this fall, reports The Wall Street Journal. 

Health experts often look to the Southern Hemisphere's flu season, which typically runs from April to September, as a predictor for the Northern Hemisphere's upcoming flu season. Many hospitals have been bracing to treat a flood of COVID-19 and flu patients this fall, which could strain resources and bed capacity.

However, many countries in the Southern Hemisphere are reporting fewer cases of respiratory illnesses like flu, respiratory syncytial virus and pneumococcal disease this season. Health experts say the decline may be an indirect benefit of measures to control the spread of COVID-19.

At present, Chile has reported 1,134 seasonal respiratory illnesses this year, compared to 20,949 for the same period last year. 

"We keep checking for the other viruses, but all we’re seeing is Covid,” Dr. Claudia Cortés, an infectious-disease specialist in Chile, told the Journal. "We were surprised by the decline in the other viruses like influenza. We never dreamed it would practically disappear."

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