A doctor vaccinates a patient as part of the start of the seasonal influenza vaccination campaign in Gouzeaucourt, France, October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo
BRUSSELS, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Influenza has returned to Europe at a faster-than-expected rate this winter after almost disappearing last year, raising concerns about a prolonged "twindemic" with COVID-19 amid some doubts about the effectiveness of flu vaccines.
Lockdowns, mask-wearing and social distancing that have become the norm in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic knocked out flu last winter, temporarily eradicating a virus that globally kills about 650,000 a year, according to EU figures.
Since mid-December, flu viruses have been circulating in Europe at a higher-than-expected rate, the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC) reported this month.
In December, the number of flu cases in European intensive care units (ICU) rose steadily to peak at 43 in the last week of the year, ECDC and World Health Organization data show.