Home » The peak of the flu, the highest ever recorded, has passed – Healthcare

The peak of the flu, the highest ever recorded, has passed – Healthcare

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The peak of the flu, the highest ever recorded, has passed – Healthcare

After weeks marked by concern about the intensification of serious forms of influenza pneumonia, the expected peak of the flu has arrived. According to the RespiVirNet surveillance system of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, it was recorded in the last week of the year and is the highest ever reported in Italy: 18.3 cases per 1,000 inhabitants, equal to 1.1 million weekly infections.

The descent began on New Year’s Eve and from 1 to 7 January the cases of flu-like syndromes decreased by approximately 100 thousand units compared to the previous 7 days (16.5 cases per 1,000 people).

The season, however, is not over yet and it now seems destined to prove to be one of the most intense ever to have occurred in Italy. From October to today, 7.8 million Italians have been affected by flu-like syndromes; with this trend we could exceed the 14 million total infections recorded last year, when the season was particularly aggressive.

This is also why health institutions urge caution: “We continue to recommend vaccinations for those most at riskstill useful in view of the ‘tail’ of the season which will last several more weeks”, warns Anna Teresa Palamara, who directs the Infectious Diseases department of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità. The concern is in fact that with this level of circulation there may still be many serious complications to manage in hospitals, which are already under too much stress, especially in emergency rooms.

In the first week of 2024, 34% of the samples analyzed by the laboratories belonging to the RespiVirNet surveillance network tested positive for influenza (it was 46% the previous week). Among influenza viruses, type A viruses are prevalent, in particular the H1N1 pdm09 subtype which is the almost absolute protagonist.

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As has happened since the beginning of the season, also in the last 7 days children under 5 were the most affected with 33.6 cases per 1,000; However, the youngest are also the segment of the population in which the greatest decline was recorded, with a reduction in incidence of over 30% compared to the previous week. Numbers are also decreasing in the 5-14 age group. “Such a sharp decline suggests that the peak has been reached,” says Antonino Bella, head of RespiVirNet epidemiological surveillance. “However, ‘upward’ fluctuations are possible, especially in children, favored by the reopening of schools.” In the last week, however, infections in adults and the elderly have remained stable. Groups in which the majority of people for whom vaccination is recommended are concentrated.

To date, almost 9.5 million doses of influenza vaccine have been administered in Italy with a coverage of the over 65 population of 45%. “We expect, by the end of the season, to reach the levels of the previous season”, said the director of Prevention of the Ministry of Health, Francesco Vaia. Meanwhile, on the vaccine front, there is good news.

According to research coordinated by the Ministry of Health of the State of Alberta, Canada, published on Eurosurveillance, this season vaccination is 61% effective in preventing influenza due to the A/H1N1 virus, the dominant one, even if there are large differences between age groups. Maximum efficacy (74%) was observed in children aged 6 months to 9 years of age; the lowest (57%) in the over-65s. Protection against the other viruses contained in this year’s vaccine was, however, 49% against the A/H3N2 virus, which was dominant last year, and 75% against type B influenza viruses.

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