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Spike in summer flu cases as social interaction increases

Symptoms can be similar to the coronavirus, leading to an increase in the number of tests being carried out.

Nuori aivastaa kertakäyttöiseen nenäliinaan.
Observing physical distancing can also curb the spread of the flu, but it cannot prevent all infections. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

Summer flu infections have been spreading in Finland over recent weeks, especially after the easing of coronavirus restrictions led to an increase in social interactions.

The number of flu infections clearly fell during the spring, as hand washing and social distancing became the norm during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many of the current infections are being caused by the rhinovirus, which is the most common viral infectious agent found in humans and is the predominant cause of the common cold, according to Niina Ikonen, a specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

Rhinoviruses often spread during late summer and early autumn.

A sharp rise in the number of influenza infections has been noted by healthcare authorities in the Central Finland city of Jyväskylä.

"The flu probably started to spread when people began moving again," Deputy Chief Physician Marja Autere from the City of Jyväskylä told Yle. "People have travelled a lot within Finland and they are sure to bring back the summer flu from their travels."

Influenza infections have also increased in both the South Savo and East Savo hospital districts.

"Summer flu is on the move, with the same type of symptoms as the coronavirus," East Savo Hospital District’s Pandemic Manager Hans Gärdström said.

The spike in cases in the hospital district can be at least partially attributed to the large numbers of domestic tourists coming into the Savonlinna region, Gärdström added.

"The number of contacts is much higher, now that people have had time to meet a much larger number of people," he said.

"Caution, such as there was during the spring, has unfortunately been forgotten," according to Veikko Karvonen, South Savo Hospital District’s Chief Physician of primary health care.

Increase in people with flu symptoms applying for coronavirus tests

The number of coronavirus tests been carried out has also clearly increased, as people with flu symptoms apply to be tested.

Finland’s Infectious Diseases Register has reported several rhinovirus infections from hospital districts in different parts of Finland, according to THL’s Ikonen.

For example, in Jyväskylä Health Centre, about 20 coronavirus tests were carried out per day in June, but now the rate is about 90 per day.

"People have probably been watching themselves more than usual, because they might want to test for coronavirus. Perhaps even milder symptoms will be referred to health care services," Autere said, adding that people should remember to take good care of hand and general hygiene.

"The less it is taken care of, the more the diseases spread," she said.

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