In an effort to minimise the spread of the Covid-19 virus, lockdown procedures and social distancing rules have also impacted the number of cases of other viruses, like the flu, the common cold and bronchitis.
Why have cases of viral diseases dropped?
Professor Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, told The Guardian, “We would expect to see a drop in influenza-like illness during the warmer months, but the latest figures from our research and surveillance centre (RSC), which collections data from more than 500 GP practice in England, shows that it’s lower than the five year average for this time of year.”
While social distancing measures and other lockdown procedures may be to thank for this dip in cases, hesitation to use NHS services during a difficult time could also explain the findings.
Professor Marshall said, “The social distancing measures we have seen over the last few months and an increased public emphasis on maintaining good hygiene have probably played their part, but we also know that some patients have been reluctant to use the NHS during Covid-19 because they haven’t want to overburden services at a time of crisis, or are afraid of catching the virus.”
He added that, as lockdown measures began to lift, “the number of people seeking medical assistance from their GP is returning to normal” and that “rates of illnesses such as the common cold [are] increasing.”
The RSC data also found that infection rates for many viruses took a dive in March, around the time the government introduced lockdown measures. When schools and nurseries closed, cases of chickenpox and measles also dipped.
Asthma symptoms have also improved
In June, a survey conducted by the British Lung Foundation of 14,000 people with lung conditions found that one in six had reported noticing improvements in their health.
Among the children included in the study, this figure was actually even higher, with one in five parents noting that their child’s condition had improved. Specifically, asthma sufferers appeared to be benefiting the most, with one in four claiming they had experienced relief from their symptoms.
The British Lung Foundation survey found that over 50 per cent of people with lung conditions claimed to have noticed a decrease in air pollution since the beginning of lockdown.
There is evidence that shows a correlation between air pollution and lung disease. Since the coronavirus pandemic effectively shut down the world for an extended period of time, there has been a huge dip in air pollution levels around the world.
Car engines, power plants and other industrial processes produce the chemical compound nitrogen dioxide, which is thought to worsen respiratory illnesses such as asthma.