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Influenza spreading across Western Europe

16.01.2013 - 11:47

Influenza is once again spreading across Europe, posing a threat to vulnerable people that have not been vaccinated. So far, reports say that it confined in the west and north of the WHO European Region, with very little or no activity in the east.

Influenza is an acute viral infection that primarily attacks the nose, throat and lungs and affects about 5–15% of the population each year. The infection is usually mild and uncomplicated, but may occasionally cause severe disease, particularly among the elderly, pregnant women, very young children and persons with underlying medical conditions. It travels easily, spreading through the air, usually from coughs and sneezes, but also from people’s hands. People can spread the virus even before they know they have it, from a day before they notice any symptoms until 5–7 days afterwards. Symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, headache, muscle aches and tiredness.

So far, at least 16 European countries have reported increasing flu activity. In the UK, Belgium, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg the virus is widespread. In specific, 167 hospitalized cases were confirmed through laboratory tests as influenza, however, the number is about to grow soon even though experts do not expect the flu season overall to be much worse than normal.

In the United States, the flu epidemic, a different type from the European influenza, has spread to at least 47 states and killed 20 children.