Home Health Influenza, the season starts with a peak. Covid increases off-season cases

Influenza, the season starts with a peak. Covid increases off-season cases

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Viruses travel with us. As we learned the hard way during the Covid pandemic, international travel was the number one source of contagion. And now the same is happening with the seasonal flu. Thanks to social distancing and the use of masks, the numbers of all viral diseases, starting with the flu, have been reduced. But now that restrictions are easing around the world, Italian and international data speak of a “rapidly growing” incidence. The flu onset curve is four times higher than in the last 15 years – he explains Silvestro Scotti, national secretary of the Fimmg -. The starting line seems very high and it is a particularly widespread seasonal epidemic, as we had already predicted from September “.


A perfect test bed to understand how the flu is behaving in the post-Covid vaccine era is Australia, which reopened its international borders in early November after almost 600 days of isolation. Here, every form of flu had practically disappeared: in these 11 months the nation – which has 25.69 million inhabitants – recorded just 598 notifications of the flu, one hospitalization and no related deaths, the lowest figures since the surveillance. But now things are changing.

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by Cinzia Lucchelli

In Oceania it is almost summer but in recent weeks 27 positives have been registered, of which only two forms correspond to the vaccine currently available. According to the Australian Department of Health, the number is currently “too low to carry out a meaningful analysis to estimate the efficacy of the vaccine” as well as the unconventional trend. But according to the doctor Sheena Sullivan, WHO researcher at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, “After 19 months of absence of community flu, as foreign tourists return to the ocean continent, Australia must expect an off-season flu epidemic.” .

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Tourism makes the virus travel

In an editorial published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the expert explained that “the introduction of new viruses has been prevented by the closure of the borders and the fact that all returning travelers have undergone a 14-day quarantine at the hotel. As a result, we have not found the influenza virus in any community samples sent to our laboratory since April 2020. It would appear that the virus has been eliminated locally, but the threat of its reintroduction looms as it reopens for travel. ” This is mainly because, having an opposite seasonality compared to the countries of origin, such as Europe, Asia and the United States, “the reopening preceded our vaccination campaign against seasonal flu, which usually begins in April. And any resurgence of ‘ influence will be felt more severely by the elderly, among whom mortality is already higher in itself and among whom Covid has already left a heavy toll “. And just as is happening in Italy, also in Australia “peaks of respiratory syncytial virus are being recorded in newborns, with many children under six months requiring hospital treatment”.

Covid epidemic and flu

“Given the similarities in the presentation, diagnosis and management of the disease, the resources made available during the Covid pandemic should also be exploited to mitigate the consequences of flu epidemics,” concludes Dr. Sullivan. “This would include tests for influenza in parallel with swabs for severe acute respiratory syndrome. The mathematical models that have guided the government’s decision-making regarding reopening should also continue to take into account the pressure on health and hospital systems, which could go doubly in trouble and due to the co-circulation of Sars-Cov-2 and flu viruses “, as the latest data collected indicate.

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In Italy

In Italy, as in the rest of Europe, influenza occurs with annual epidemics during the winter season. Sporadic cases can also occur outside the normal flu seasons: in the summer months so far the incidence has been negligible but already this year there has been a sharp departure of the autumn flu-like syndromes curve, higher than expected. Although seven regions have not yet activated surveillance, the latest bulletin released by Epicentro speaks of “a sudden increase in incidence, equal to 4.2 cases per thousand assisted, where the most affected are children under the age of 5. of age, with a threshold of 17.9 per thousand assisted “. According to data processed by Dr. Antonino Bella of the Infectious Diseases Department of the Higher Institute of Health, “Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Marche, Lazio, Abruzzo, Puglia and Sicily have recorded a level of incidence of flu-like syndromes above the basal threshold “, with an incidence doubled in three weeks. The peak is expected at the end of January.

In the studies of family doctors, Scotti concludes, “we are seeing many family epidemics: the child leaves, then all the others follow. It is a worrying situation and our invitation is to get vaccinated: last year we did not develop antibodies and this risks help Sars-Cov-2 .. If you become infected with the flu virus, which can leave symptoms such as cough for a long time, and then contract Covid, sneezing and coughing risk spreading the coronavirus more “.


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