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Jan 23, 2021
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Where has the flu gone? Is a new epidemic real soon?

Winter is in full swing, but nothing has been heard about the flu. When is the severe epidemic expected that we were afraid of in the fall?

Tells virologist-epidemiologist, expert of the Center for Molecular Diagnostics of the Central Research Institute of Epidemiology of Rospotrebnadzor Mikhail Lebedev

Lydia Yudina, “AiF”: Mikhail Yurievich, in the fall they predicted that new strains of influenza would come, which we had not yet met. Why have we not heard anything about them until now?

Mikhail Lebedev: Not new strains were expected, but genetic variants of those strains that circulated in previous seasons. They also increase morbidity, but not as critically as fundamentally new viruses against which the immune system has not yet developed a defense. Although the flu virus usually comes to us in November, and the peak of the incidence falls in mid-to-late January, at the moment the situation is extremely favorable – both in Russia and in Europe. In my opinion, this is largely due to those quarantine measures (masks, social distance, washing hands, limiting contacts) that are in effect around the world to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection. They also prevent the spread of influenza. It should also not be forgotten that this year 76 million people (60% of the Russian population) were vaccinated against influenza in our country. And in some regions, up to 70% of the population received the vaccine. This also helped to stop the onset of the flu.

Between the first and second

– There is an opinion that the flu did not come to us also because the coronavirus cannot stand being close to other infections.

– Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is known that COVID-19 was first recorded in China just when the flu season was in full swing there. Moreover, according to Chinese doctors, many then had the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which is why the course of the disease was extremely difficult.

– In the fall, many of us were vaccinated against the flu, and now another vaccination campaign has begun – against the coronavirus. Is it not dangerous to be vaccinated so often and is it necessary to vaccinate against the “corona” for those who have been vaccinated against the flu? Many people believe that the flu shot also protects against the coronavirus.

– Vaccines are not cross-protective. Therefore, a flu shot does not protect against coronavirus and vice versa. Those who got the flu shot did it a long time ago. The vaccination campaign started in September, and most were vaccinated in October and November. This is a pretty decent time. A sufficient interval between vaccinations is a break of 2-3 weeks. It is also important to remember that the flu vaccine is one of the shortest vaccinations available. The term of its protection is on average 6 months. Therefore it is also mistakenly wide
the popular belief is that last year’s vaccine will protect against influenza.

However, since the emergence of new strains is not expected, it is hoped that those who have not been vaccinated will also have protection against influenza this season due to the “immunological memory” (it is formed after encounters with the virus in the past seasons).

To the doctor, on business, urgently!

– Influenza, like COVID-19, is handled differently by everyone. Someone has a couple of days, others he unsettles for a month. What does the disease scenario depend on?

– The severity of the course of influenza (like any other viral infection) is determined by three factors: the uniqueness of the strain (more severely people get sick with those viruses that they have not yet met), viral load (the more viral particles enter the body, the more difficult it is for him to cope with the virus ) and the individual characteristics of the organism. The risk group for a severe course of influenza includes elderly citizens, young children, as well as patients with concomitant pathology (diabetes mellitus, chronic heart failure, etc.). For these categories, if you suspect influenza, it is imperative to call a doctor.

– But those who do not need sick leave do not see much sense in this. After all, medical recommendations usually boil down to the need to drink a lot and stay in bed.

– Influenza is one of the few viral diseases in which there is an effective etiotropic therapy (drugs that destroy the virus and suppress its reproduction). However, these drugs are most effective in the first 48 hours of illness. Accordingly, the sooner a person seeks a doctor, the more chances he has for a quick recovery. Medical assistance is needed to prevent the development of complications that are so dangerous for the flu. They can develop both rapidly (pneumonia) and delayed (complications from the cardiovascular system). Since complications are more common in patients with chronic diseases, they should not stop taking medications to treat the underlying disease during the flu.

– Influenza is considered highly contagious. Is it possible to avoid infection by close contact with a sick person?

– Quite. It should be remembered that a person is most contagious from the moment the first symptoms appear and in the first 2-3 days of illness, when the virus is actively replicating (self-reproducing). At this time, it is necessary either to isolate the sick person, or to distance as much as possible from him (in case of forced communication, wear a mask). After the concentration of the virus secreted by the patient is reduced (4-5th day of illness), it is enough to provide him with a separate dish and ventilate the room as often as possible. Since influenza is transmitted not only by airborne droplets, but also by contact, it is very important to follow the rule of clean hands to prevent the disease.

What drugs are most effective for influenza?

By acting directly on the virus, these drugs prevent it from entering the cell or block enzymes that allow it to multiply.

The flu virus multiplies in the body at an incredible rate. To fight the virus, modern proactive drugs are needed. These medications, prescribed in the first two days of illness, reduce:

  • its duration;
  • reduce the severity of symptoms;
  • prevent complications.

Proven effectiveness is possessed by:

  1. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu, Nomides, Influcein, Oseltamivir)
  2. Zanamivir (Relenza).
  3. Umifenovir (arbidol, arpeflu, afludol, umifenovir).

There are contraindications. Be sure to consult your doctor

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