CASES of deadly winter bugs could plummet this year due to increased handwashing, masks, social distancing measures and more people getting access to the flu vaccine, experts say.

Virologists in Glasgow have offered a small ray of hope amidst rising cases of coronavirus that another infection, which kills around 2000 people a year across the UK, could see a drop in cases.

Flu is transmitted in the same way as Covid, primarily through respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces. Australia and South Africa are said to have seen very little cases of flu this winter.

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Experts say enhanced hygiene could also lead to a drop in cases of Norovirus, which is spread by hand contact and causes around 200,000 deaths world-wide every year.

Dr Antonia Ho, a Consultant in Infectious Diseases at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said the expansion of this year’s flu vaccination programme – due to Covid risks, should contribute to a drop in cases.

Social care workers, people over 55 and household members of those who are shielding will now be eligible for the jab.

She said: “Flu is transmitted in the same way as Covid (primarily through respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces). 

“It is possible that we will see fewer cases if everyone adhered to advice regarding physical distancing, handwashing and face masks. 

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“Also if there is a good uptake of flu vaccine which has been expanded to households of shielding individuals and 50-64 year olds.

“Australia and South Africa have seen little flu this winter.”

However, Professor Jurgen Haas, Head of Infection Medicine, at the University of Edinburgh said it is likely hospitals could see cases of co-infection, which he said is seen in around 5% of respiratory tract infections.

A new study found people infected with both flu and coronavirus have a six-fold increased risk of death compared with the general population.

Patients battling both viruses at the same time are twice as likely to die as those with Covid-19 alone, according to the Public Health England (PHE) study.

“We will probably see people with co-infection,” said Mr Haas.

“We see co-infections regularly with other viruses in about 5% of cases. There is also fair chance that we won’t pick up other respiratory infections though because we are mainly doing Covid-19 testing, that’s the priority.”

Mr Haas said flu symptoms in the at risk groups are typically severe from the outset while patients with Covid can exhibit only mild symptoms for the first few days before they becomes more severe.