Colds and flus mysteriously disappeared over the past two years only to return recently in many countries, often with a vengeance. While only rarely discussed and frequently dismissed as a mere curiosity, the mystery of the disappearing flu is actually one of the most important events of the past two years. Unpacking this mystery provides deep insights into the future trajectory of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, exposes the abject failure of the vaccines to control the pandemic, and puts the final nail in the coffin on futile public health measures like masks and social distancing. Get ready for more than a few surprises as you follow me on another deep dive into Covid mayhem.Figure 1: Global circulation of Influenza viruses (Source: WHO FluNet)

The Mystery of the Disappearing Flu

Many public health officials and journalists credited masks, lockdowns, and social distancing for the disappearance of the flu. Critics pointed out that the flu also disappeared in places like Sweden, which did not have lockdowns, mask mandates, or social distancing rules. Critics also pointed to long-standing research demonstrating that virus-bearing aerosols are too small to be stopped by masks and that, even in perfectly still air, these aerosols are so small that they hang in the air for many days before settling to the ground, making social distancing a joke. 

Particularly embarrassing for those cheerleading all these heavy-handed measures is that the flu disappeared several months before the first mask mandate was imposed, as demonstrated in the chart below showing influenza cases in Canada. I’ve added dates to the chart to show when mask recommendations and mask mandates were first rolled out โ€” it’s rather obvious that they had nothing whatsoever to do with why the flu disappeared. Clearly, we need to look elsewhere to explain the mystery of the disappearing flu.

On the other side of the debate are some who have suggested that cold and flu infections were simply rebranded as Covid due to flawed PCR testing. However, in many countries flu testing did not stop, yet the number of flu tests coming back positive nonetheless fell off a cliff. Some countries even conducted more flu tests than usual and still found nothing. And cold and flu numbers also collapsed in countries like Japan, which had extremely low Covid infections during the early waves of the pandemic; they had low flu and low Covid numbers, so it was not a matter of shoddy accounting transferring cases from one balance sheet to another. The flu stopped circulating globally (I’ll get to the surprising exceptions later in this article โ€” hint: Kenya).

The chart below shows the total number of flu tests (on the left) and the percent of flu tests coming back positive (on the right) in Canada, the United States, and Europe. The dashed black lines show the pre-2020 averages in each region (grey shows the minimum and maximum number of tests in previous years). The red lines show the extraordinary 2020-2021 results: despite above-average flu testing in 2020-2021, flu cases essentially dropped to zero.

In recent months a different phenomenon has emerged. Countless people all over the world are now complaining about brutal colds, which are NOT caused by Covid. The RSV virus has also returned. And the flu is back in many countries. 

And these viruses are back with a vengeance, in some cases far above pre-2020 levels thanks to the immunity debt that has built up in the population because of a lack of regular exposure to these other respiratory viruses. For example, RSV infections are swamping many hospitals at unprecedented levels, often despite large numbers of positive Covid tests still being recorded in the same communities. 

And, rather embarrassingly for the pro-mask, pro-social distancing crowd, these viruses are back despite the fact that most countries still have universal mask mandates and social distancing rules. Check mate.

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