The Spanish Flu killed around 50 million people worldwide, and experts fear it could be the next big pandemic.

That’s according to one of the World Health Organisation’s leading experts on influenza.

Dr John McCauley is a member of WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.

He believes changes to the regular flu virus could make it much more fatal, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Scientists are trying to protect us from other dangerous viruses that could cause the next pandemic. They fear another disease could lead to “case counts and death tolls similar to the Spanish Flu”.

Dr McCauley says his biggest concern is the seasonal flu.

Speaking to The Sun, he warns a flu strain is the most likely culprit for a future pandemic.

Social distancing and increased handwashing also meant the flu cases dropped dramatically last year, Dr McCauley says.

Experts are warning Britain could face a dramatic increase in flu cases this winter, as life returns to normal.

The British Medical Journal reported a study that shows people infected with both coronavirus and flu were twice as likely to die than people infected with just Covid.

The Spanish Flu killed more people than World War I, and McCauley says we need to be ready for its return.

He says: “Since we’ve seen it (Spanish Flu) before, we could see it again. We still need to remain prepared for this type of scale of event.”

He added: “Before coronavirus, the next one that was going to come out and get you was going to be the flu.

“The next one will be flu or another coronavirus. You know that flu can do it, and you now know that coronavirus can do it.

“So flu hasn’t gone off the list, flu remains on the list, flu remains on the list.”

“We were lucky with the first SARS-coronavirus, we haven’t been so lucky this time, and there could be other diseases out there.”

“A Major Contender”

Another expert, Dr Erin Sorrell, specialises in emerging infections diseases and influenza.

She warns: “The question is not if we will have another pandemic but when. While a pandemic today could lead to case counts and death tolls similar to 1918, it would not be for the same reasons.”

Experts are monitoring changes in viruses, particularly influenzas and zoonotic influenza. Vaccines are being developed to deal with this.

McCauley advises: “If that made another antigenic change so that the vaccine didn’t cover it well, the last time that happened we had significant excess mortality in the UK.”

“If the virus moved on in a similar kind of way that it did in 2014-2015, then it would be a concern.

“On top of the not going away coronavirus pressures then that becomes significant. You could have half the people with coronavirus and half the people with flu.”

“Are you going to separate them? Are you going to mix them up? And what about if you get a dual infection? Is that worse?”

Bird Flu

The recent Russian cases of avian flu is also worrying to experts.

McCaulay added: “It’s a concern. The people didn’t seem to have any severe disease so that might be a concern that other people in other places were getting infected and this is the first time that people were picked up with an infection.

“There is nothing special about this virus that’s been present in that area of Russia but this kind of virus could acquire the ability to spread better in people and that would not be good.”

Dr Sorrell says: “This subtype continues to be a dangerous one for humans in terms of its ability to spill over from an avian host to a human through very close contact and cause very high mortality rates, in the case of highly pathogenic strains.”

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Image via Alamy.