Influenza epidemic seen past its peak in Hungary

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The number of respiratory illnesses in Hungary remained essentially unchanged over the past seven days compared to the preceding week, even though the number of people seeking medical help with influenza-like symptoms did rise slightly, the latest weekly report of the National Centre for Public Health (NNK) showed on Thursday.
influenza járvány vírus betegség maszk

The NNK said that on the ninth week of the year, 295,400 people went to the doctor with symptoms of severe acute respiratory infections (down from 295,600 a week earlier), of whom 65,700 (22%) were diagnosed with influenza-like illness, in contrast with 65,300 a week earlier.

If it were not for the holiday season when people are less inclined to visit the GP's office and complain about "just a wee cough", we would not see that dip in the curves. Also, knowing how data is provided, collected, processed and published in Hungary when it comes to infections (may it be coronavirus or the flu), we should not be surprised to see the system taking a break for a while towards year-end.

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The SARI figure shows a marginal drop (it is essentially unchanged from a week ago), and the number of flu-like symptoms has also risen negligibly, which suggests that the flu season has likely peaked.

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The age breakdown (see four graphs below) shows that SARI affected primarily children, and to a smaller extent young adults since the 40th week of last year, while flu-like illnesses started to "pick on" children and young Hungarians from the fourth week of 2023.

Of course, the greater number of infections among children also has to do with the fact that concerned parents generally take their offspring to a paediatrician much more willingly and frequently than older people seek medical help, thinking they will just tough it out.

Of all the patients that went to the doctor with flu-like symptoms, 44.1% (28,974) were children. 28.7% were aged 15-34 (18,856), 20.3% (13,337) were in the 35-59 age group, and 6.9% (4,533) were over 60.

As for the age breakdown of people going to the doctor with SARI, 50.3% (148,587) were children, 24.4% were aged 15-34 (72,078), 17.2% (50,809) were in the 35-59 age group, and 8.1% (23.927) were over 60.

OF THE 150 RESPIRATORY SPECIMENS SENT IN BY DOCTORS, 69 (46%) WERE FOUND TO BE INFLUENZA OF some TYPE, 11 (7.3%) WERE SARS-COV-2, AND THREE (2.0%) PATIENTS HAD RESPIRATORY GIANT CELL VIRUS (RSV).

This compares with 60.1%, 5.2% and 7.2% the week before, respectively.

The green line on the graph below also suggests that the flu season is over. As you can see the share of some kind of influenza in samples submitted by sentinel hospitals dropped to 45% from 60%, while it has been rising steadily since the second week of this year. We should, however, wait for a couple more sets of figures to be certain, although with the weather warming, SARI and flu will become less of a problem.

Last week, 329 people (315 on the preceding week) were hospitalised for severe acute respiratory infections, 63 of whom required intensive care (43 a week earlier). Of the 329 patients, 31.6% were aged 2 years or younger (up from 29.8%) and 40.7% were aged 60 years or older (down from 41.9% a week earlier).

Of the patients requiring hospital care, 75 (22.8%) were affected by influenza, 55 (16.7%) by SARS-CoV-2 and 46 (14.0%) by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or respiratory giant cell infection. Of the RSV-positive patients, 69.6% (vs. 65.1% a week earlier) were aged 2 years or younger, and 67.3% (vs. 76.3%) of those infected with the coronavirus were aged 60 years or older.

Cover photo: Getty Images

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