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Flu and RSV: How to protect yourself this season – health

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Flu and RSV: How to protect yourself this season – health

The prognosis of the professional association of paediatricians does not sound optimistic. “We have to be prepared for another severe wave of influenza this winter,” association president Thomas Fischbach recently told the newspapers of the Funke media group, citing developments in Australia.

The flu epidemic is still in progress there – and in fact comparatively violent. According to data from the Australian Department of Health, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases is above the average for the years 2016 to 2019. At the beginning of the Australian season, more people with influenza complications had to be treated in hospital than during the four years before the pandemic. Currently, however, the severe cases have decreased.

The exact course of the coming flu wave in Germany cannot be predicted from these observations. However, the developments in the southern hemisphere provide clues. “The Australian data also show us that children and adolescents are currently relatively badly affected,” says Clemens Wendtner, head of infectiology and chief physician at the Munich-Schwabing Clinic. He advises parents to talk to their pediatrician about getting the flu shot, especially if their children have a weakened immune system or pre-existing conditions. The Standing Committee on Vaccination (Stiko) does not explicitly recommend vaccination for healthy children. However, they can be vaccinated if parents so wish.

The injection is still expressly recommended for people over 60 years of age, pregnant women and people with previous illnesses. “There is enough flu vaccine for this season,” says Wolfgang Ritter, chairman of the Bavarian Association of General Practitioners.

For the first time there is a vaccine against RSV

Another pathogen that experts traditionally worry about in winter is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It can cause pneumonia, especially in young children and the elderly. From this season on there will be a vaccine for the elderly for the first time – and with it the hope that fewer people will suffer severe courses.

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The Arexvy vaccine from the British pharmaceutical company GSK is approved for people aged 60 and over and is already on the market. “It doesn’t seem to be that well known among the general public,” says Clemens Wendtner. He recommends that all people in this age group take advantage of the vaccine.

On Friday, the EU Commission approved another RSV vaccine. The product from the US company Pfizer can protect not only the elderly, but also babies in the first six months of life. For this purpose, the preparation called Abrysvo is administered to the mother at the end of the pregnancy, who then develops the protective antibodies and passes them on to the child.

An antibody called Beyfortus, which can also protect babies from severe courses, is also approved. However, it is not yet clear when both products will come onto the German market. The extent to which the funds are available and how well they are received will likely determine how future RSV seasons go.

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