10:26am Thursday 14 December 2017

Increased influenza activity across Norway

Illustration photo - sneezing into elbow

A relatively high proportion of patient samples have tested positively for influenza. Most confirmed the influenza B virus, but some have confirmed influenza A (H1N1) virus (“swine flu”). Sporadic cases of influenza A (H3N2) have also been detected.

Samples from people admitted to hospital with severe influenza have confirmed swine flu for which they were not vaccinated. Efforts have now been raised to encourage people in the at-risk groups to be vaccinated.

Important to be vaccinated

This year’s seasonal influenza vaccine protects against A (H1N1), A (H3N2) and influenza B, which are currently circulating in the population.

“It takes 1-2 weeks before the vaccine provides optimal protection. People with increased risk for severe influenza – pregnant women, people over 65 years of age and people with chronic diseases – who have not yet taken the vaccine, are recommended to do so as soon as possible to ensure protection. People outside the risk groups can also request the vaccine” said Preben Aavitsland, Assistant Division Director. “We hope to avoid the wave of severe influenza A (H1N1) virus that has been experienced in Britain recently.”

At-risk groups 

  • Pregnant women in 2nd and 3rd trimester. Pregnant women in 1st trimester with additional risk of complications may be considered for vaccination
  • People who are 65 years or older 
  • Residents in sheltered housing and nursing homes 
  • Adults and children with chronic lung diseases, especially those with impaired lung capacity 
  • Adults and children with chronic cardiovascular disease, especially those with severe heart failure, low cardiac output or pulmonary hypertension 
  • Adults and children with weakened immune systems
  • Adults and children with diabetes mellitus (both type 1 and type 2) 
  • Adults and children with chronic renal failure 
  • Adults and children with chronic liver failure 
  • Adults and children with chronic neurological disease or injury 
  • Adults and children who are morbidly obese, i.e. body mass index (BMI) over 40 kg/m2

The vaccine is also recommended for health care workers with patient contact and for pig farmers and other people who have regular contact with live pigs. People outside the risk groups can also request to be vaccinated against influenza.

“We do not know if this trend with the dominant influenza B virus will continue, or whether the relationship between virus types will change during winter,” said Aavitsland. “It is normal to see a lot of influenza B cases in some years as this virus has not circulated for some time and many people have poor immunity to it. The influenza B virus usually causes a somewhat milder disease than influenza A, but people at risk for severe influenza illness are still vulnerable.”

Prevention

Simple hygiene measures can help to prevent the spread of infection. 

  • Hold a paper tissue over the mouth when coughing and sneezing and dispose of it after use. 
  • Wash hands frequently. 
  • Cough or sneeze into the elbow if there are no tissues available.

“People with influenza should remain at home until 24 hours after recovery to avoid infecting others, but should seek medical help if necessary” added Aavitsland. Anti-viral treatment is available for people in high-risk groups, for those with severe symptoms and anyone who needs it. Treatment should begin as early as possible. “If severe influenza symptoms arise, do not hesitate to seek medical advice.”


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