If you want to protect yourself against influenza, you have to take action now
334,000 influenza virus-confirmed flu cases were reported last winter 2017/2018. Almost 60,000 people had to be hospitalized in hospitals. The infection was fatal in 1,665 people - the flu epidemic hit Germany so hard. In order not to repeat this severe wave of infections, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) now informs in good time about suitable measures to avoid.
The current seasonal report of the Influenza Working Group (AGI) of the Robert Koch Institute with its extensive evaluations shows how extraordinarily heavy the last flu wave raged. Older and weakened people in particular can develop a difficult course, which often ends in death. For this reason, particularly vulnerable groups of people should now take appropriate protective measures, advises the RKI.
Nine million visits to the doctor for flu
The latest wave of flu not only claimed countless victims, it also pushed the entire health care system to its limits. "For example, there were an estimated nine million visits to the doctor due to influenza," reports RKI experts. This is two million more than in the 2012/13 and 2014/15 flu seasons, which were also considered to be particularly strong.
RKI President calls for better use of protective measures
"The protection options must be better used," warned RKI President Lothar H. Wieler in a press release. A vaccination against flu is the most important known protective measure despite seasonal effectiveness. The RKI President also recommends washing your hands regularly and properly with soap so that pathogens on your hands do not get into the body. It is also advisable to keep the patient at a distance in order to reduce the risk of infection.
Who is vaccination advisable for?
Even if the vaccination does not offer 100% protection, according to the RKI, it is currently the most effective measure against the aggressive viruses. "No other vaccination can save more lives in this country," emphasizes Wieler. According to the recommendations of the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO), the following groups of people should be vaccinated against influenza viruses:
- Anyone over 60 years of age
- chronically ill of all ages,
- Pregnant women
- Medical and nursing staff.
Flu is still underestimated
Many people confuse serious flu with a cold (flu infection). The low vaccination rates show that the real flu is taken too lightly too often. As the RKI reports, 61.4 percent of all doctors were vaccinated in the 2016/2017 flu season. Only one in three people were vaccinated among nursing staff, in therapeutic professions and in the age group over 60 years.
The age group from 35 years is also often affected
As the evaluations by the RKI show, the burden that a flu wave has on the entire economic and health system has never been as high as last season. According to the RKI, the age group from 35 years of age was particularly affected. In total, around 5.3 million sick leave caused massive economic damage. The hospitals also reached their limits. Significantly more patients with severe acute respiratory diseases had to be admitted to the intensive care units than in previous years.
Why didn't last season's vaccine work effectively?
The National Reference Center for Influenza at the RKI examines and characterizes the prevailing circulating influenza viruses using samples from sick people. It turned out last season that the influenza B virus of the so-called Yamagata line dominated from the very beginning. Vaccination against this type of virus was not recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and therefore the corresponding protection was not included in the standard vaccination.
The upcoming vaccine should work better
In January 2018, STIKO published a recommendation for the so-called quadruple vaccine, which is intended to improve protection against influenza B viruses. "Since the production of flu vaccines takes several months, the manufacturers can take this recommendation into account for the coming season for the first time," explain the RKI experts. However, an influenza vaccination is not as effective as other vaccinations, even if there is good agreement with the circulating viruses. Nevertheless, around every second vaccinated person over the age of 60 could be spared an infection. Because of the frequency of the illnesses, thousands of infections and deaths could be prevented, the RKI scientists and doctors sum up.
Quadruple vaccine is now taken over by the health insurance companies
Following the recommendations of STIKO, the vaccination guidelines have now been revised. The quadruple vaccine, which was only taken over from certain private insurance companies last season or had to be covered by additional payments, will be taken over by the statutory health insurance companies as the standard vaccination for the upcoming 2018/2019 flu season. (vb)