By NewsDesk @bactiman63
RSV and influenza virus epidemics are starting in Finland. The number of RSV and influenza findings reported to the Infectious Disease Registry has increased in recent weeks. In other parts of Europe, both RSV and influenza infection rates have been increasing.
RSV epidemics usually occur on both sides of the turn of the year. In long-term monitoring before the corona pandemic, a larger RSV epidemic occurring every other winter, which often starts in November-December, has been observed.
This year, during November, more than three times the number of RSV infections have been reported to the infectious disease registry compared to October. Well over half (66%) of laboratory-confirmed infections have been found in children under the age of 4, for whom the disease may be more serious than in working-age children.
“On the basis of the disease picture, the disease caused by RSV cannot be distinguished from other respiratory infections caused by viruses. The cause of the disease can only be found out with a laboratory test. If the disease is accompanied by serious symptoms, such as shortness of breath or deterioration of the general condition, or if the disease is prolonged, it is necessary to contact the healthcare system”, says THL’s leading expert Niina Ikonen.
Between October and November, RSV infections have been reported in almost all hospital districts. In November, the incidence of RSV has increased in the HUS area, in the hospital districts of Southern and Northern Ostrobothnia and Satakunta and Lapland compared to October.
The new long-acting monoclonal antibody nirsevimab has recently received an EU marketing authorization for the prevention of RS virus in newborns and infants. The product is currently in a health technology assessment by the Pharmaceutical Safety and Development Center Fimea, which outlines how it will be used in Finland. In addition, several RSV vaccines are currently being developed to prevent RSV disease in both infants and the elderly. The first sales licenses for them are expected towards the end of next year.
More than a million flu vaccinations have already been given
The number of influenza cases has also started to increase in a few hospital districts. Since mid-November, an increasing number of influenza cases have been reported to the Infectious Diseases Registry every week. In Finland, both influenza A virus subtypes (H3N2 and H1N1pdm09) and influenza B have been found.
In Finland, influenza epidemics usually start around the turn of the year. In terms of infections, the peak weeks are usually between February and March.
Influenza vaccination is an important protection against influenza. It reduces sequelae, deaths and hospital and institutional treatments caused by influenza.
Children over 65 years of age, pregnant women and children aged 6 months to 6 years who are susceptible to severe influenza due to a certain illness or treatment are eligible for a free flu vaccination. In addition, social and healthcare professionals and medical care professionals and those starting military service are entitled to free vaccination.
According to the data of the national vaccination register, a total of 1.12 million flu vaccine doses have already been given by 26 November 2022, two out of three of them in the public sector. The number is probably an underestimate, as there is a delay in data transfer from time to time.
The number of serious pneumococcal infections has increased during 2022
In 2020–2021, the hygiene and containment measures of the corona pandemic significantly reduced the incidence of severe pneumococcal disease in all age groups. As late as the beginning of 2022, fewer serious infections caused by pneumococcal bacteria, where the pathogen has been found in the patient’s blood or cerebrospinal fluid, were reported to the infectious disease register than usual.
However, after the lifting of restrictions related to the corona pandemic, the number of infections rose in May at the same time as the exceptionally late flu season. In September-November, serious pneumococcal infections have already been found as many times as before the pandemic. The number of cases can increase even more during the winter, when the RSV and influenza viruses that predispose to bacterial sequelae become more common with the start of the respiratory infection season.
Small children are offered a vaccine against ten types of pneumococci in the national vaccination program. Free pneumococcal vaccines are also offered to those who have received a stem cell transplant and those under the age of 75 with severe kidney disease. In addition, with the help of flu vaccines, it was possible to prevent at least some of the secondary diseases caused by pneumococci and other bacteria.