Season of sniffing and coughing: flu season is approaching
The wet and cold weather heralded the season of sniffing and coughing. At present, such symptoms are mainly caused by cold viruses. But the real flu is also about to start. However, you can also protect yourself against diseases - among other things by strengthening the immune system.
Symptoms of cold and flu are similar
Because the symptoms are somewhat similar, the difference between cold and flu is not immediately clear to everyone. One point at which it becomes very clear what it is is the beginning: A flu occurs suddenly. You often feel healthy in the morning and suddenly have a fever of 40 degrees in the evening. Usually symptoms such as headache, body aches, chills, cough and runny nose are added. However, anyone who is already coughing and sniffing has usually caught cold viruses rather than flu, said Silke Buda, an expert at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German press agency.
No increased flu activity in Europe yet
Although the first evidence of influenza pathogens is slowly becoming available, increased flu activity is nowhere to be seen anywhere in Europe. "We are still at the very beginning. Now is the right time to get vaccinated, ”said Buda.
However, everyone has to decide for themselves whether a flu vaccination makes sense. According to the RKI, it can still offer protection even at the beginning and in the course of the flu wave.
Health experts recommend people from high-risk groups to get vaccinated. For example, the Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO) advises senior citizens from the age of 60, pregnant women, the chronically ill, residents of old people's homes and nursing homes and medical staff to be vaccinated against flu. Ultimately, the pros and cons of flu vaccination must be weighed up against each other.
Disease can vary in severity
In principle, it cannot be predicted how difficult the upcoming flu season will be. While the past was relatively moderate, many Germans were hit hard in winter 2014/15.
In recent years, the flu wave usually started after the turn of the year and peaked between mid-February and late March.
"The severity of the disease can vary," writes the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) on its website. “The sufferers feel very weak. If the course is uncomplicated, the symptoms persist for about 5 to 7 days. ”However, it can also“ go hand in hand with serious illnesses, which in the worst case can lead to death. ”
Vaccines are updated every year
"Every year, the basic composition of the influenza vaccines has to be adapted to the current epidemiological situation because the properties of the circulating influenza viruses change," reports the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI). "The exact composition is determined each year by the World Health Organization (WHO)."
The influenza vaccination must therefore be refreshed every year. As Buda explained according to dpa, the vaccines for the 2016/2017 season differ in two of the three components from those of the previous season.
According to the PEI, there are also two vaccines on the market, each with four components, in which one strain has been exchanged. The PEI has released a total of around 16 million vaccine doses to date.
Higher risk of serious illness
The strain for swine flu A (H1N1), which has been circulating relatively much in the past year, has been retained. According to Buda, the trunk for A (H3N2), which was last present in the southern hemisphere, was updated.
"Experience has shown that older people in seasons in which H3N2 is circulating are at higher risk for a more severe course of the disease," said the RKI expert.
The instructions for the vaccine composition are always given to the vaccine manufacturers months before the start of the flu season because the production takes time. Nevertheless, sometimes they are not a perfect fit because the viruses can still change over time.
Low protective vaccination
According to the RKI, the protective effect of vaccination last winter was “low to moderate”. The effectiveness in other seasons was "mostly higher and was between 40 and 60 percent."
One of the reasons for the low values, according to Buda, was that the correct line against influenza B had not been taken into account in the triple vaccine. In the end, a variant other than the one assumed was more widespread.
According to the RKI, flu vaccination remains the most important means to protect yourself from flu. However, it cannot offer protection to all vaccinated people. Therefore, additional precautionary measures should always be taken.
Healthy people should keep away from sick people and infected people should not distribute the viruses. It is important for both groups to wash their hands frequently. (ad)