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THL: Seasonal flu making a comeback

The public health institute says it expects Finland to see a return of the annual flu this fall.

Mies niistää nenää.
When Finland rolled out measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, influenza quickly disappeared. Finland has not seen the annual flu since the 2019-2020 season. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Seasonal influenza and common colds are likely to return in a few months after nearly vanishing for two years in Finland, according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The agency said Covid mitigation measures during the pandemic have kept other respiratory infections at bay, but it noted that these illnesses will likely return in the autumn.

The THL's National Infectious Diseases Register recorded some 12,000 fewer influenza cases than usual this past winter, which saw hardly any flu patients hospitalised.

Health officials said improved hand hygiene and distancing contributed to the disappearance of the flu. But as people reduce mask wearing and stop distancing, conditions that enable viruses flourish.

"We're seeing signs of this around the world," said Carita Savolainen-Kopra, a microbiology expert at the THL.

Rhinoviruses, which cause common colds, began cropping up again this spring and summer. As Covid vaccinations continue to progress, other viruses will trigger cold and flu symptoms, according to Savolainen-Kopra.

Health experts also predict that the seasonal flu wave will hit Finland earlier than usual this year—by autumn and not around New Year, which is usually the case.

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