The flu wave: more than 300,000 infections and around 1,000 deaths

Almost 1,000 confirmed deaths from influenza

The number of new flu infections is currently falling significantly and gives hope for an early end to the flu wave. With more than 300,000 confirmed flu infections and almost 1,000 deaths reported, this was one of the worst waves of infections in decades. According to experts, poor preparation had a significant share in the high number of infections.

"The activity of acute respiratory diseases (ARE) fell significantly nationwide in the 12th calendar week (KW) 2018," said the good news from the Influenza Association at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). However, the so-called practice index is still in the area of ​​significantly increased activity. An unusually large number of people are currently still infected with flu - more than 25,000 in the last recorded reporting week of the RKI alone.

Declining number of new flu infections

According to the RKI, a total of 25,216 new influenza infections were confirmed in the twelfth reporting week and the number of new infections decreased in all age groups. However, the activity of the influenza virus remains unusually high. Many sufferers also have a particularly severe infection. According to the RKI, 17 percent of those affected (4,299 people) had to be treated in the hospital in the last reporting week alone. "The peak of the flu wave has been exceeded," report the RKI experts.

Influenza B viruses are particularly well represented

The flu wave had started in the last week of December of last year and the number of new infections increased dramatically in the coming weeks. To date, 300,018 cases of influenza have been reported to the RKI, with the influenza B virus (with 99% from the Yamagata line) causing the most infections. According to the RKI, other viruses that appeared were “Influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 viruses and Influenza A (H3N2) viruses.”

971 deaths from influenza

More than 51,000 infected people had to be treated in the course of the current flu wave in the hospital and a total of 971 people succumbed to their infection - thereof 716 influenza B viruses, 179 influenza A viruses, 29 influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 viruses, once influenza -A (H3N2) viruses and 46 influenza not differentiated according to A or B. "87 percent of the cases were 60 years or older," reports the RKI.

High number of unreported cases of flu infections

Since "only a small number of patients with acute respiratory diseases are given a laboratory diagnostic test for influenza", the RKI claims that the data are "only of limited use for the assessment of the disease burden." In fact, the numbers are likely to be significantly higher given the enormous number of unreported cases lie. Nevertheless, a rough estimate can be made on the basis of the data and they offer "important individual information, in particular on serious illnesses, on outbreaks e.g. in hospitals or old people's homes and in the event of death ”; according to the RKI.

Hospitals under special stress

The figures of the RKI also reflect, for example, the particular burden on hospitals in the wake of the current flu epidemic. Not only did they have to treat an extremely high number of flu patients, they were also often affected by outbreaks. 138 outbreaks (more than 5 cases) in hospitals were reported to the RKI. Furthermore, for example, 49 outbreaks in old people's homes / nursing homes, 35 in rehabilitation facilities, 22 in care facilities, but also 122 in kindergartens and 58 in schools.

Wrong vaccine used

The cause of the particularly strong spread of flu infections in the current season is, among other things, the lack of protection against the influenza B virus in the vaccine used. As a two-agent vaccine, this only offered protection against two strains of virus that were less widespread this year. Using the more expensive quadruple vaccine, which also protects against influenza B viruses, would probably have significantly restricted the spread of infections here.

Prevent infections

Various measures should be taken to prevent flu infection despite the lack of vaccination protection. For example, it is important to keep a distance of two meters from infected people and to pay more attention to hygiene. Thorough and correct hand washing is particularly important here. If you are suspected of having flu, a doctor should be consulted to clarify whether you actually have the flu or if you have a flu infection instead. Because the other measures also depend on the extent to which a cold or a real flu is present. (fp)

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