Finland: RSV and influenza epidemics starting, pneumococcal infections on the rise


by NewsDesk Lord, save her

Epidemics of respiratory syncytial virus and influenza virus began 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, rates of RSV and influenza have increased.

3D printing of the influenza virus. The surface of the virus (yellow) is covered with proteins called hemagglutinin (blue) and neuraminidase (red). National Institutes of Health

Epidemics of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) usually occur around the turn of the year. In long-term surveillance before the Corona pandemic, a larger RSV epidemic was observed every other winter, which often begins in November and December.

This year, during November, more than three times as many RSV infections were reported in the infectious disease registry than in October. More than half (66%) of laboratory-confirmed infections are found in children under four years of age, for whom the disease may be more severe than in children of working age.

“On the basis of the disease profile, the disease caused by RSV cannot be distinguished from other respiratory infections caused by viruses. The cause of the disease can only be known through 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 has been going on for a long time, it is necessary to contact the health care system, says Nina Ikonen, a leading expert on THL.

Between October and November, RSV infections were reported in almost all hospital areas. In November, the incidence of RSV increased in the HUS region, in the hospital districts of Southern and Northern Ostrobothnia, Satakunta and Lapland compared to October.

The new long-acting monoclonal antibody nirsevimab has recently received marketing authorization from the European Union for the prevention of RS virus in newborns and infants. The product is currently undergoing health technology evaluation by the Pharmaceutical Development and Safety Center Fimea, which shows how it is used in Finland. In addition, several RSV vaccines are currently being developed to prevent RSV disease in infants and the elderly. The first sales licenses are expected to be issued to them at the end of next year.

More than a million influenza vaccines have already been administered

The number of influenza cases has also begun to increase in a few hospital areas. Since mid-November, an increasing number of influenza cases have been reported to the Infectious Diseases Registry each week. In Finland, both influenza A (H3N2 and H1N1pdm09) and influenza B virus subtypes have been found.

In Finland, influenza epidemics usually begin around the end of the year. In terms of infections, the peak weeks are usually between February and March.

Flu vaccination is an important protection against influenza. It reduces the consequences, deaths and hospitalizations caused by influenza.

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Children over 65 years of age, pregnant women, and children between the ages of 6 months to 6 years who are exposed to severe influenza due to a specific disease or treatment are eligible for free influenza vaccination. In addition, social and health care professionals, medical care professionals, and those beginning military service are entitled to get vaccinated for free.

According to data from the National Immunization Registry, a total of 1.12 million flu vaccine doses had already been administered by November 26, 2022, two out of three of which were in the public sector. Perhaps the number is an underestimate, as there are delays in data transmission from time to time.

The number of serious pneumococcal infections increased during 2022

In the 2020-2021 period, hygiene and containment measures for the Corona epidemic led to a significant decrease in the incidence of severe pneumococcal disease in all age groups. As late as the beginning of 2022, fewer serious infections caused by pneumococcal bacteria, in which the pathogen was found in a patient’s blood or cerebrospinal fluid, were reported to the Infectious Disease Registry than usual.

However, after the restrictions related to the Corona epidemic were lifted, the number of infections increased in May, coinciding with the exceptionally late flu season. In September-November, serious pneumococcal infections are already detected as many times as before the epidemic. The number of cases can increase further during the winter, when RSV and influenza viruses become more common as the respiratory infection season begins.

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Young children are offered a vaccine against ten types of pneumococcus in the national immunization programme. Free pneumococcal vaccines are also offered to those who have undergone a stem cell transplant and those under the age of 75 with severe kidney disease. In addition, with the help of influenza vaccines, it was possible to prevent at least some secondary diseases caused by pneumococci and other bacteria.

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