The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warns that the upcoming seasonal flu in combination with the COVID-19 pandemic could pose a serious risk to the elderly or people with weakened immune systems.
However, as the ECDC specialist points out, the protective measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are also proving to be effective in limiting the spread of seasonal flu.
In a press release, the ECDC states that although the total number of influenza tests in most countries of the European Union and the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) remains low, influenza circulation is above the K season.
The main reported subtype among cases reported in the EU / EEA last month is A (H3N2), which disproportionately affects the elderly and is associated with lower vaccine efficacy. According to the ECDC, this means that seasonal flu this winter can affect the elderly more.
“Early detection of subtype A (H3N2) is an indication that the upcoming flu season may be severe, although we can not know for sure what the upcoming flu season will be like,” said Passy Pentinen, head of the ECDC program for seasonal flu.
“A sharp increase in influenza infections during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could have serious consequences for the elderly and people with weakened immune systems and could further burden health systems already strained by COVID-19 “added Mr. Pentinen, emphasizing the need to take appropriate precautions to protect the most vulnerable.
During the period 2020-2021 there was a significant reduction (more than 99%) in the number of influenza cases detected in the EU / EEA. This means that non-pharmacological interventions, such as avoiding overcrowding and adhering to hygiene measures, work effectively not only to reduce the spread of the coronavirus but also the flu.
“This is particularly important to consider in environments such as nursing homes and health care settings,” Pentinen said, adding that coronavirus and influenza vaccination “also provides good protection against serious illness.” especially those working in hospitals and healthcare facilities or nursing homes.
Each year, about 20% of the population gets the flu each year and one in four develops symptoms. The elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, lung problems, diabetes or immune system problems are at greater risk of developing serious complications from the flu.