family sitting on couch with tissues and flu symptoms

Positive flu cases have been growing since the last week of 2023

The death of two people from the flu in Italy this week has raised alarm bells across Europe about cases of respiratory illness – Italians are facing one of the worst flu seasons in recent years.

According to Fabrizio Pregliasco, associate professor of Health at the University of Milan, speaking to Euronews Next, influenza usually causes thousands of deaths annually in Italy because, like other respiratory diseases, it can aggravate pre-existing cardiac and respiratory pathologies or cause viral pneumonia. This flu season “has been the worst in terms of the number of cases in recent years,” with the H1N1 flu variant accounting for 60% of isolates in the surveillance system.

According to the expert, this ‘cocktail’ of respiratory diseases – Group, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and a new variant of Covid-19 – is in circulation, among low vaccination rates. Experts from the World Health Organization (who) have warned that there is a co-circulation of multiple pathogens in the Northern Hemisphere this year.

“This is causing a significant increase in burden and hospitalizations not only for Covid-19, for influenza, but also for these other pathogens,” said Maria van Kerkhove, who Technical Lead for Covid-19. ” We have low demand for and use of vaccines, especially among those who are most at risk, ” he added.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and control (ECDC) stressed that the influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus was indeed the “dominant” subtype of influenza in the European Union. It descends from the so-called “Swine Flu” that caused the 2009 pandemic and is the target of the vaccine this year. “There is currently no evidence that influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 infections are more severe this year compared to previous seasons. Unfortunately, flu deaths are expected now that the flu season has begun, ” the ECDC added.

Influenza activity has been intensifying across Europe since the end of 2023, with increases in most EU countries, according to the European respiratory virus surveillance summary.

Influenza circulates at higher levels in Europe than Covid-19 and RSV, the respiratory virus that can cause bronchiolitis, in the last week of 2023.

Among severe respiratory infections, flu test positivity rose to more than 10 percent, which is “comparable to previous years at the start of the seasonal epidemic,” the report added.

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