It comes as there are fears the flu could return with full force while health authorities are still under pressure from surging Covid cases. The Robert Koch Institute has reported that flu cases in Germany are increasing. Its weekly report points out that 151 cases were confirmed by laboratory diagnostics. But so far, these numbers remain too low to class this as a “wave”.
And this is not the only place where cases of flu are ramping up, with reports of rising rates across Europe.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the positive rates in some countries were well over 10 percent.
In France, it was at 33 percent, and in Sweden, 36 percent.
But the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has sounded the alarm, warning that the numbers are much higher than expected.
According to WHO and ECDC data, there were already 43 cases of influenza in intensive care units across Europe in the last week of December 2021.
There was only one case in the same period last year.
And there have already been 72 severe cases and six deaths just in France, Reuters reported.
While the number of cases is still lower than the pre-corona level, the data shows numbers are on the rise.
And experts have “big concerns” that things could get worse as Covid restrictions get lifted and vaccination progress slows.
Pasi Penttinen from ECDC told Reuters: “As we start lifting all measures, the big concern I have about influenza is that we may be moving away from normal seasonal patterns because we’ve had almost no circulation in the European population for so long.”
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And ECDC experts warn that this could happen in Europe too.
Sparking further panic is the fear that flu vaccines, which are updated every year, might not be effective enough against the flu viruses that are currently circulating, according to the ECDC.
This could be a worry for older and people with underlying health conditions, who could be hit the hardest by a new wave.
And there are even fear that children who have had little or no contact with flu viruses could also be more severely affected too, according to the Hamburg General Practitioners Association.
But right now, there is no evidence of a flu epidemic or of an increasing number of cases in children.
Jakob Maske from the Professional Association of Physicians in Child and Adolescent Medicine (BVKJ) said: “We are seeing a rather mild flu season at the moment, as we did last winter, when we hardly saw any cases of flu.
But he warned increasing cases could cause some serious damage.
He said: “If there is a flu epidemic, it will be like every year that children will also fall ill and some become seriously ill.
“In principle, flu can cause severe disease in any age group, but we tend to see children with pre-existing diseases who are increasingly severely affected.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.