The Netherlands has the flu: delayed epidemic now here


The Netherlands is now officially in the grip of a flu epidemic, with the number of people diagnosed with the disease ‘rapidly increasing’, national health institute RIVM has said.

The RIVM defines an epidemic as ‘a larger than normal number of people in a region getting a disease at the same time’. In the last week, triple the number of infections were reported compared to the week before.

Influenza normally strikes in the winter months. The late arrival of the epidemic, the RIVM said, may be down to the corona virus related measures of the last two years. Mask wearing, for example, helps prevent the spread of viruses, including the flu virus.

Now that the measures have been relaxed and people are no longer social distancing or wearing masks, more people will get flu, epidemiologist Rianne van Gageldonk told broadcaster NOS.

It is hard to calculate the impact of the flu epidemic, including on hospital capacity, Van Gageldonk said. ‘We are keeping an eye on it. But how bad it will be and how long it will last is anyone’s guess.’

Virologist Menno de Jong said the flu may have a bigger impact because people have not been able to built up enough immunity against the virus and that this can be particularly dangerous for people with underlying illnesses. It is not clear, however, if people will become sicker than before the coronavirus epidemic, he said.

This year’s flu monitor, a citizens initiative, combines data about both viruses in a Grote Griep&CoronaMeting. The organisers stress that coronavirus symptoms and flu symptoms are very similar and that people with sore throats and other airway problems should be tested for both viruses.

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