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Flu infections fall as Finland fights coronavirus

As Finland focuses on hand washing and social distancing, seasonal flu infections have fallen.

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Good hand hygiene helps fight flu as well as coronavirus. Image: Heikki Haapalainen / Yle

Finland has around 5,000 fewer A-influenza infections this year than were recorded last year, according to figures from the National Institute for Health and Welfare.

In week 13, for example, there were just 44 lab-confirmed cases of A-type influenza in Finland, compared to 928 in the same week last year.

"It’s clear to see that the peak of flu cases has already passed," said Nina Ikonen of THL.

There have been some 2,000 more cases of B-type flu than in 2019, but Ikonen notes that rates of infection were particularly low last year.

One reason for the drop might be a reluctance to test for influenza as actively as last year. Visits to health centres have also dropped significantly year-on-year.

"During the coronavirus epidemic people are encouraged not to present at reception without calling ahead," said Ikonen. "This could have reduced the number of influenza cases that came to light."

In addition, people have been subject to a nationwide campaign to encourage hand hygiene and that could have helped slow the spread of the flu.

“Influenza spreads through droplets and contact, just like coronavirus and other respiratory infections,” said Ikonen. “That’s why hand hygiene and good coughing and sneezing practices help prevent it from spreading.”

When people are not packed together but isolated in smaller groups, viruses don’t spread in the same way.

Vaccinations also help in the fight against flu, and the THL says around one million people in Finland — a fifth of the population — have had a seasonal flu jab.

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