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Reduce risk of flu infection through vaccination and protective measures
The current flu season has started. How difficult it will be this year is currently not yet predictable. Health experts are now calling for vaccination. However, protective measures such as regular hand washing can also reduce the risk of infection.
Protection against infection
The course of a flu season cannot be predicted. The season usually starts in January and lasts three to four months on average, but this time the first flu cases were reported in September. Health experts are calling for vaccinations against the viral disease. In order to protect yourself from infection, it is also generally a good idea to strengthen the immune system, to keep away from sick people and to wash your hands regularly.
Efficacy of the flu shot is not optimal
The 2016/2017 flu season was a severe wave of flu and hit older people particularly hard. This is shown by the new seasonal influenza report, which the Influenza Working Group at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has now published.
"Unfortunately, the vaccination rates are particularly low for seniors at around 35 percent," said Prof. Dr. Lothar H. Wieler, President of the RKI, in a joint press release from the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) and the RKI.
Even if the effectiveness of the flu vaccination is not optimal, many cases of illness and serious progress can be prevented due to the frequency of the influenza.
"Despite the fluctuating vaccine effectiveness, vaccination is the most important measure to protect against illness," emphasizes Wieler.
In order to reduce the risk of influenza infection, regular and thorough hand washing with soap and keeping away from sick people are recommended in addition to vaccination.
Protection needs to be refreshed every season
Ultimately, everyone has to decide for themselves whether a flu vaccination makes sense.
According to the RKI, it can also offer protection at the beginning and in the course of the flu wave.
The vaccination needs to be refreshed every year because the vaccine is reassembled for every season to deal with the latest flu viruses.
PEI President Prof. Klaus Cichutek explains the range of different vaccines: "In addition to the vaccines for intramuscular injection in the upper arm, there is also a vaccine this season that can also be injected under the skin, i.e. subcutaneously."
"In addition, there is a nasal spray vaccine for children and adolescents from the age of two up to and including 17 years and a vaccine for people over 65 years with a potentiator."
Three tetravalent influenza vaccines are available this season, which can protect against all major circulating strains of the influenza virus.
Vaccination rates are too low
The Standing Vaccination Committee recommends flu vaccination especially for people at increased risk of serious illnesses. These are primarily people over the age of 60, chronically ill and pregnant women.
Vaccination can be carried out with a tri- or tetravalent influenza vaccine (three or four components). Medical and nursing staff should also be vaccinated due to their occupational exposure.
In addition to self-protection, the protection of treated patients or cared-for persons is also a priority here.
However, vaccination rates among medical personnel are still too low. A pilot study conducted by the RKI in two university clinics showed that just under 40 percent of the clinic's employees were vaccinated, 56 percent among doctors, 34 percent of nursing staff and 27 percent in therapeutic professions.
Dr. Heidrun Thaiss, head of the BZgA, emphasizes: “According to our study data, the most important contact persons for vaccination information are the treating doctors and medical staff. These professional groups should set a good example, get themselves vaccinated against flu and pass on this information. "
There is no chicken protein-free vaccine this season
This year, the BZgA again sent media packages with educational materials on the flu vaccination to important multipliers such as resident doctors, to specialists from clinics, old people's and nursing homes, pharmacies and the public health service.
The brochures contained therein as well as further information on the flu vaccination are available for download at www.impfen-info.de/grippe or can be ordered free of charge.
Since 2006, the BZgA and the RKI have been running a joint information campaign "We get ahead of the flu" to provide information about influenza vaccination.
The Paul Ehrlich Institute, which as the Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedical Medicines checks the quality of all batches of vaccines before they are put on the market, has already released around 17 million doses of vaccine.
There is no chicken protein free vaccine this season. "However, this need not worry people with egg white allergy," explains Cichutek.
An investigation by the PEI showed that a large number of published clinical study results mean that serious allergic reactions to an influenza vaccination are rare or not more common in people with an allergy to egg protein than in people without an egg allergy.
If the egg protein allergy is known, the vaccinating doctor should be informed in any case.
Older people in particular are affected by serious illnesses
The optimal vaccination period is October and November. An overview of the influenza vaccines with information on the approved age group can be found at www.pei.de/influenza-impfstoffe.
For the specialist public, the RKI offers detailed answers to frequently asked questions about influenza vaccination on the website www.rki.de/influenza-impfung.
In a flu season, in which the influenza A (H3N2) subtype dominates, the elderly and the elderly in particular are affected by serious illnesses.
Data from the National Reference Center for Influenza in the seasonal report show that more than 90 percent of the influenza viruses examined belonged to this H3N2 subtype in the 2016/2017 season.
Among hospital patients with severe acute respiratory disease, the age group aged 60 and over was more affected in the 2016/17 season than in the severe flu wave 2014/15 and significantly higher than in the more moderate season 2015/16.
At an estimated six million, the number of visits to the doctor associated with influenza was lower than in 2014/2015.
The data shown in the seasonal report for Berlin for the estimated over-mortality attributed to influenza was significantly higher than the 2014/2015 season (600) at 920; nationwide data are not yet available. (ad)