Many people in the UK have been coming down with nasty colds, and this may have delayed the bad flu epidemic that’s been predicted to hit this year
News that winter flu is rampaging through Britain and threatening Christmas is premature. While the northern hemisphere’s winter flu season has just begun, it seems that another virus might have been keeping it largely at bay in Europe.
Flu is infamous for occasional, deadly pandemics, such as swine flu in 2009, or the epidemic that helped end the First World War in 1918. But the epidemics of “ordinary” flu that take place every winter are deadly too, killing up to 650,000 people with respiratory disease a year, and probably the same number again through complications such as heart attacks.
It has been feared that this year’s winter flu will be particularly bad. In July, winter flu in Australia was dominated by an unusually severe virus in the H3N2 family, against which the flu vaccine was largely ineffective – and