Monday, January 17, 2022

Return of the flu: EU faces threat of prolonged ‘twindemic’ – EURACTIV.com

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.

According to EU figures, lockdowns, mask-wearing, and social distancing 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.

But that has now changed as countries adopt less strict measures to fight COVID-19 due to widespread vaccination.

Since mid-December, flu viruses have circulated 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.

That is well below pre-pandemic levels – with weekly flu cases in ICUs peaking at over 400 at the same stage in 2018, for example.

1 comment:

  1. The spread of influenza across Europe has sparked concerns about the risk of a prolonged ‘twindemic’, as the high Covid transmission rate raises fears about the pressure on already overstretched European health systems.

    A combination of Covid lockdowns, enforced mask-wearing, and social distancing requirements throughout the continent helped to almost eradicate the flu last winter, experts said.

    However, the ECDC believes relaxed restrictions are set to result in a resurgence of influenza cases. The European organization has reported that the flu virus is spreading across the continent at a higher-than-expected rate, with cases in intensive care units rising at the end of December.

    Speaking to Reuters, the ECDC’s influenza expert, Pais Penttinen, expressed “big concern” about influenza as countries “start to lift all measures,” warning cases might “shift away from normal seasonal patterns.”

    Removing Covid restrictions before the end of spring could see a prolonging of the twindemic with Covid and influenza beyond May, according to the ECDC, putting extra pressure on health services that are already overstretched.

    Concerns have been exacerbated by the flu variant that has become dominant this season, as the H3 of the A virus usually causes severe cases of the illness among elderly patients, potentially impacting hospitalization rates.

    Six regional countries – Armenia, Belarus, Serbia, France, Georgia, and Estonia – have recorded seasonal influenza activity above the normal threshold in primary care. A further seven nations have recorded widespread influenza activity and/or medium flu intensity.

    Amid the number of influenza cases, France has seen three regions already declare a flu epidemic, according to French Health Ministry data, with the department warning there “is still large room for improvement” in the uptake of flu shots to limit the impact of the virus.

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