Omicron and influenza: is there still a threat of a twindemic?

The strict measures taken during the corona pandemic have not only inhibited the spread of SARS-CoV-2, other viruses have also had less of a chance in the past two years. But that could change in the future: In several countries, the flu diseases are now increasing in addition to the corona numbers – severe courses and hospitalizations are also possible. Is the health system threatened with a double burden?

The  corona  virus continues to rage and the number of people infected with the flu is also slowly increasing. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported a total of 151 confirmed cases last week, and the numbers are also increasing in other countries.

Influenza wave threatens until early summer

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warns of the rapid spread of influenza viruses alongside  SARS-CoV-2 . According to the experts at the ECDC, a delayed flu wave that goes beyond the normal end of the season in May is possible.

Pasi Penttinen, ECDC expert, warned Reuters of the consequences of possible easing: “If we start lifting all the measures, the big concern I have about  influenza  is that we might deviate from the normal seasonal will remove patterns because we have had almost no circulation in the European population for so long.”

A double burden of COVID-19 and influenza could push the healthcare system to its limits.

Influenza virus may be particularly aggressive

Influenza infections could be particularly high this season due to two key factors:

  • Flu strain of influenza:  Previous laboratory tests show that the H3 variant of influenza (H3N1) is particularly rampant. The variant can lead to severe courses, especially in older people or pregnant women.
  • Difficult adaptation of influenza vaccines:  Due to the influenza variants, vaccines against influenza are usually based on the viruses of the previous season. In this way, the protection of the vaccine can be optimised. However, due to fewer infections and diseases in the past two years, the vaccine is difficult to adapt.

Vaccination against influenza is recommended as well as against COVID-19. In this way, a severe course can be prevented with a high degree of probability and the burden on the health system can be relieved.

In addition to older people and pregnant women, children are also at risk due to the low level of exposure to H3N1.

Flu numbers are also rising in other countries

The number of flu infections is also increasing in other countries: according to the World Health Organization (WHO), France and Sweden are particularly affected.


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