Experts warn about overlap of flu, COVID.

ISLAMABAD -- Health experts have called for strengthening virus monitoring and vaccination to guard against potential co-circulation of influenza and COVID-19 this winter.

Gao Fu, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that Europe has experienced a new round of the avian flu epidemic since June and the United States has also reported an unprecedented outbreak of H5N1 among poultry, pointing to a high risk of the virus' spillover to humans.

"So a severe challenge facing us this winter and spring would be the dual spread of influenza and the COVID-19 disease," he said during a seminar.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that influenza levels in China's southern provinces have registered a rapid increase since June and have hit a record high compared to the same period of the past five years, China Daily reported.

"This suggests a high risk of surging flu cases this winter and spring season," it said, adding that schools, nursery care and elderly care facilities are the most susceptible to flu outbreaks.

Zhang Wenqing, head of the World Health Organization's Global Influenza Programme, said that since the second half of last year, flu activities across the globe have markedly increased, signaling a change from its consistently mild spread since COVID-19 emerged.

A more dramatic shift took place during this winter in the southern hemisphere, where some countries have registered higher flu incidence rates than pre-COVID levels.

She said efforts should be devoted to conducting year-round rather than seasonal monitoring for influenza, as well as promoting integrated monitoring of these two diseases.

In China, while mass COVID-19 vaccination has been climbing, flu inoculation is lagging.

The China CDC said that this year's evaluation and approval process for flu vaccines has been initiated earlier and...

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