The flu in Greece hits children and teenagers more, COVID-19 the elderly

flu greece COVID-19

Children and teenagers are more affected by the flu, and the coronavirus affects the elderly - An increase in flu cases is expected, and the wave of the coronavirus is approaching its peak.

Influenza type A, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 remain in the epidemiological spotlight every other day, continuing to circulate and cause infections in the population with different intensity and frequency depending on the group they find most vulnerable each time. Thus, the flu is currently on the rise, "preferring", according to the experts, more children and teenagers, while the COVID-19 infection is especially targetting adults, especially the elderly. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is also rising in circulation in children and older people.

The holidays' gatherings and synchronism created a strong chain of viral transmission that will not be easily broken after the reopening of schools. In fact, the next ten days are expected to show further the imprint of tens of thousands of students returning to the classrooms and the viral load they will subsequently spread. Vaccinating the vulnerable and the elderly is, even now, an important move to protect them against serious illness from COVID-19 and flu.

"The wave of coronavirus is approaching its peak. Meanwhile, the wave of seasonal flu is only three weeks old. This means that the COVID cases will stabilise and start to decrease in the coming weeks, while the flu cases will increase at least until the beginning of February," said the professor of Epidemiology of the Faculty of Medicine, EKPA, Mr Dimitris Paraskevis.

As for those hospitalised due to coronavirus, they amount to about 1,600 in the country's hospitals, remaining at a stable level in recent days, an indication of the peak trend of the wave. The professor points out the two problems of this year's season: "On the one hand, a weakened immune system, which forgot to react immediately due to the pandemic and lockdowns; on the other hand, the low vaccination rate among those who should have been vaccinated."

Indicatively, about 57% of people over the age of 60 have been vaccinated for the flu, while for the coronavirus, the vulnerable people over the age of 65 who have been vaccinated do not exceed 180,000.

The flu is starting to take up a lot of space now, especially in children's viruses.

"What we see is that in the cases of coronavirus, the transmission started from the adults to the children, while in the flu it is the other way around, from the children the virus is transmitted to the adults", says the pediatrician, president of the Panhellenic Federation of Independent Pediatricians, Mr Konstantinos Daloukas. The pandemic strain A(H1N1) is the one that dominates, with the expert, however, pointing out that this year's flu is milder compared to last year's and the flu in general as we knew it.

“Covid infection is a mild respiratory disease in children. But this year, the picture is also mild in cases of influenza, with a fever of up to 39, not higher, for 3-4 days, and with fewer complications in general. Few children are hospitalised with severe otitis media or pneumonia," notes Mr. Daloukas.

In addition to the flu, RSV and Strep round out the cocktail of viruses in children - although Strep is on the wane, circulating mostly in the November-December period. The combination of RSV and streptococcus proved to be fatal for the 4.5-year-old child from Thassos, who died yesterday after a short hospitalisation at Hippocrates Hospital in Thessaloniki.

It is recalled that in December, shortly before Christmas, another child, aged 8, passed away after a short hospitalisation at the "Aglaia Kyriakou" Children's Hospital, having also tested positive for streptococcus. He was the eighth victim of strep infection in Greece in 2023.

Viruses in the child population have alerted parents and doctors since the autumn. However, the outbreak of viruses, dominated by influenza, during the holidays "lifted" a large wave of small patients to children's hospitals. In Attica, where the three pediatric hospitals are located, hundreds of children from both the Attica basin and neighbouring areas sought a medical examination during the on-call hours.

The fact that many freelance pediatricians had their offices closed for the holidays put all the pressure on the hospitals. At the same time, it highlighted dramatically the lack of public Primary Health Care (PHC) structures in Attica and throughout Greece.

It is indicative that from the volume of incidents recorded in the last two weeks at the Children's Department, only 10% or less required admission and hospitalisation. The vast majority of young patients needed medical examination and instructions.

In fact, at "Agia Sophia", the largest Children's hospital, just before the end of 2023, a record attendance of patients was recorded: 800 children were examined during the on-call on Sunday, December 24.

The high number of attendances continued until the New Year, when most of the private pediatricians returned, decongesting the Children's wards. Last weekend, however, during its 48-hour vigil, "Agia Sophia" received approximately 900 children, a number noticeably reduced compared to other vigils.

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