Influenza and COVID-19 : What does co-existence mean?
The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 continues to have a major impact on healthcare and social systems throughout the world. As the clinical and epidemiological features of COVID-19 have many parallels with influenza, it is important to ensure optimal management of both respiratory diseases as we anticipate their continued co-circulation. In particular, there is a need to ensure that effective surveillance and diagnostic capacities are in place to monitor these and other respiratory viruses, as this will underpin decisions on the appropriate clinical management of the respective diseases. As such, we propose a series of key recommendations for stakeholders, public health authorities, primary care physicians and surveillance bodies that will help mitigate the combined risks of concurrent influenza epidemics and the COVID-19 pandemic. We advocate the judicious use of influenza vaccines and antivirals, particularly among groups at high risk of complications, with healthcare workers also considered a priority for vaccination. It is likely that the increased use of emerging technologies such as telemedicine and contact tracing will permanently change our approach to managing infectious disease. The use of these technologies, alongside existing pharmaceutical strategies, will ensure that we achieve a holistic approach to the global public health measures needed to deal with the combined threat of influenza and COVID-19. Ensuring that this approach is optimal will be key as we move from a reactive pandemic response towards preparing for the long-term management of the remarkable clinical burden associated with these respiratory pathogens.