Now is the time for a flu shot: Steady rise in cases of influenza in Rhine-Sieg

Now is the time for a flu shot : Steady rise in cases of influenza in Rhine-Sieg

With an ever increasing number of cases of influenza, doctors recommend that people get flu shots - and in November at the latest. In Rhine-Sieg last year there were 1,460 cases of influenza and this year there are already more than a thousand cases.

The number of flu cases in the Rhein-Sieg district has increased steadily in recent years. "A physician does not have to report every case of flu. Only a laboratory test and a high incidence rate, for example in a senior citizens' facility, day care center or school, have to be reported," says Antonius Nolden of the Rhein-Sieg district press office.

In 2014, 17 cases of influenza were reported, one year later there were 314. "The high fluctuations in the figures are explained by the fact that family doctors previously carried out fewer rapid influenza tests. The greater willingness to do so began around 2017," says Nolden. That resulted in 551 cases being reported. In 2018 there were 1,460 influenza cases, this year there are already far more than a thousand. The year 2018 was a real peak for cases of flu in the district, he confirms. The health department of the Rhein-Sieg district recommends a flu vaccination at the family doctor in any case.

In contrast to the common cold, influenza is a dangerous infectious disease. "Influenza can cause serious, harmful complications," says Dr. Rainer Meilicke, head of the district health department. "According to the German Society for Infectious Diseases (DGI), vaccination is particularly important for people with heart disease in order to reduce the risk of a fatal heart event such as a heart attack." Current studies confirm this scientific knowledge anew. "The protective effect of the vaccination to prevent a heart attack is comparable to stopping smoking or taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, it is still not well known that people with heart disease should be vaccinated against influenza every year," says Professor Gerd Fätkenheuer, Head of Infectiology at the University Hospital of Cologne and Chairman of the DGI.

Influenza is caused by viruses that are transmitted from person to person in two different ways, and the vaccine is also particularly recommended for people with other chronic diseases and for people aged 60 and over. When coughing or sneezing, tiny droplets are released into the air and onto surrounding surfaces. These are either inhaled or can later be absorbed through the hands by unconsciously touching the mouth or other mucous membranes.

"Many people still shy away from influenza vaccinations. A frequent argument: there is no one hundred percent protection by the vaccination. That is true. The vaccine must be adapted every year - depending on which influenza viruses are circulating and how they change," says Meilicke. According to the DGI, thousands of people die every year in Germany as a result of severe flu waves. According to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute, around 25,100 influenza-related deaths occurred in the 2017/18 season.

Older people and the chronically ill are particularly at risk of suffering severe or fatal courses of influenza. The most feared complications of influenza include inflammation of the brain or heart muscle, which can affect even young people with no pre-existing conditions. Ideally, vaccination should take place in October or November. It takes about 14 days after the vaccination for complete protection to be established. As a rule, the number of influenza cases begins to rise significantly at about the turn of the year and usually reaches its peak in the course of February or early March - in the Rhineland especially after carnival, as Nolden notes.

(Orig. text: Dylan Cem Akalin / Translation: ck)

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