More and more people in Germany are currently suffering from real flu. This is actually not unusual at the beginning of the year, because the months of January and February in particular are the main months of infection with influenza viruses. But compared to previous years, the doctors at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) noticed that a particularly large number of healthy middle-aged people suffer from a severe flu infection. According to the RKI, the so-called "swine flu" is probably responsible for this.
The main months for flu are January and February
The flu wave 2016 is spreading more and more, more and more people suffer from typical complaints such as fever, joint and limb pain, chills, headache and cough. According to the latest weekly report by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 2,394 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases have been transmitted for the fifth calendar week (30 January to 5 February 2016). It has been around 7,300 since October 2015, with the reporting data reflecting only a small part of the reality, since not all patients with flu symptoms go to the doctor or are tested for influenza there.
More adults sick than usual
It is not uncommon for so many people to get the flu at the beginning of February, because the influenza, popularly known as "real flu", has its peak season between January and February each year. However, the patient group that is currently affected is unusual. Because it currently looks like more middle-aged adults lie flat than usual, while in the age groups of children (0 to 14 years) and over 60-year-olds, a decrease in values was recorded. The reason for this is presumably that the flu season is currently dominated by the virus H1N1 ("swine flu"), which has only been circulating since 2009, according to the influenza expert at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Silke Buda, to the news agency "dpa".
"The virus also seems to cause more serious illnesses in younger adults and people without a chronic previous illness than the A (H3N2) virus, which was prevalent in the previous year." Nevertheless, the disease takes a severe course in Germany only in relatively rare cases, and also fits the current vaccine against the virus is still good, adds Buda. Nevertheless, doctors should now take a closer look at patients between 15 and 59. According to the expert, there have also been increased reports of severe flu cases in intensive care units internationally, in some of which the H1N1 virus has been detected. However, the common term “swine flu” could lead to misunderstandings, because “it sounds as if it is a virus that also circulates in pigs,” continues Buda.
H1N1 triggered an influenza pandemic in 2009
However, this is not the case with the new influenza virus variant of subtype A (H1N1), which caused the global occurrence of flu diseases ("influenza pandemic") in 2009. Because, like a common influenza, this is mainly transmitted by droplets, e.g. cough, sneeze, or speak to contact persons' mucous membranes. If you are infected, the influenza typically starts very suddenly, the first signs are high fever, headache and body aches, later there is usually a runny nose, cough and sore throat.
In general, influenza viruses are divided into types A, B and C, each of which triggers different types of disease and can change genetically from season to season. The new H1N1 virus is still relatively new for the human immune system, but according to Buda it had already been used in previous years. Accordingly, the proportion of influenza infections was e.g. 2014/2015 at 15 percent, but this season it has been 70 percent so far, according to the expert. That could change, however, because type B influenza may be even more widespread than before: "With influenza B it is often the case that the proportion increases over the course of the season."
According to the RKI, the influenza B virus is currently one of the most frequently detected influenza viruses in the 2015/16 season with 22 percent of the cases after the H1N1 virus. From an expert point of view, how the situation develops is also important with regard to the accuracy of the flu vaccines, because the currently circulating influenza B viruses are not covered by the influenza B virus strain contained in the triple vaccines Buda.
Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly
Regardless of whether you are vaccinated or not, special attention should be paid to hygiene in order to avoid infection with the flu virus. Above all, this includes regular and careful hand washing, experts also advise not to sneeze into your hand, but always to sneeze into a handkerchief or the crook of your arm and to provide fresh air on a regular basis. If you get caught, there are numerous options for self-treatment for flu and colds, such as the so-called "oil pulling" or natural medicinal preparations made from purple sun hat. (No)