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HUS chief doc: Severe influenza season looming

"We should remember that hundreds of people die every year from the flu," the physician warned, recommending everyone get flu vaccines.

Asko Järvinen sitter inne på sitt arbetskontor iklädd läkarjacka.
Asko Järvinen, infectious disease specialist and chief physician at Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS). Image: HUS/Tero Hanski

The coming influenza season will likely be more severe than usual, according to Asko Järvinen, infectious diseases specialist and chief physician at Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS).

Following many months of relative isolation due to coronavirus-related restrictions, influenza was kept under control last season. However, due to that hiatus, people's immune systems are now lower than usual, he explained.

"We had virtually no flu last year, so this season will likely be more severe than usual," Järvinen told Yle on Friday.

However, with only a few isolated cases in the HUS area so far, the flu hasn't gotten a foothold yet, with Järvinen estimating the season will begin towards the end of year.

The infectious disease specialist encouraged people to take the flu vaccine, emphasising that, in his opinion, at least people in risk groups should get the jab.

RS cases also expected

"We should remember that hundreds of people die every year from the flu," Järvinen said.

"Personally, I recommend the flu vaccine to everyone. We have been vaccinating our family for 20 years," he continued.

The autumn flu season, according to the chief physician, has started normally as contacts between people have gradually increased, kids are in daycare and schools have started in-person classes.

The restrictions during the Covid crisis helped to reduce the incidence of flu and other respiratory infections by around 30 percent.

The incidence of respiratory syncytial virus (RS) — which can affect all age groups but poses significant danger to infants — was nearly nonexistent during that period.

However, this season, RS is expected to make a strong comeback, according to Järvinen.

RS is not more dangerous for healthy adults than the common flu, but can lead to inflammation or even pneumonia in young children, particularly infants. The respiratory tract infection can also be very dangerous for the elderly.

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