Influenza-like illnesses have risen to an epidemic level in Hungary, and there is also an epidemic caused by the respiratory giant cell virus (RSV) – the national chief medical officer told MTI.
Cecília Müller presented the epidemiological data and announced that in the first week of the year (January 2-8), almost 162,000 people went to the doctor with an acute respiratory infection, and 19,000 of them were diagnosed with a flu-like illness based on clinical symptoms.
The numbers show that acute respiratory diseases increased by 20 percent and flu-like diseases by 50 percent compared to the last week of the year, which means that the epidemic spread of influenza has begun, he pointed out.
In the first week of 2023, with the exception of Komárom-Esztergom county, the frequency of people going to the doctor with flu symptoms increased compared to the previous week. Most patients were in the counties of Győr-Moson-Sopron and Békés, while the fewest were in the counties of Fejér and Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén.
Cecília Müller emphasized that RSV, which is basically a mild disease similar to a cold or cold, has also reached an epidemic level.
In the first calendar week, respiratory samples from 190 patients arrived at the laboratory of the National Public Health Center. Out of the 83 samples submitted by sentinel doctors, 19 cases of some type of influenza, 20 patients of RSV and 9 patients of coronavirus infection were confirmed.
The data show, Cecília Müller said, that the influenza positivity rate increased from 10 percent to 23 percent in the last week compared to the previous two weeks, while the RSV positivity rate was 24.1 percent in the first week of January, compared to 51 .compared to 9.2 percent weekly. At the same time, he added, the number of coronavirus-positive samples decreased from 17.5 percent to 10.8 percent.
The specialist also said that in the first week of the year, 367 people were hospitalized with serious, acute respiratory infections, and 42 people needed intensive care.
Cecília Müller highlighted: 45.5 percent of the 367 patients treated at the hospital were two years old or younger, and 41.7 percent were older than 60. Among those hospitalized, 105 patients were diagnosed with RSV, 100 with coronavirus, and 17 with influenza.
The national chief medical officer emphasized that it is still worth requesting the flu vaccine because there is still time for immunity to develop. He added: even during an unfolding epidemic, there is no reason to take the vaccine, as the infection can be overcome with milder symptoms.
Vaccination is mostly recommended for the most vulnerable groups (elderly, chronically ill), workers in health and social care institutions, and livestock farms.
Currently, there is no ban on visiting hospitals, but such measures are expected as the number of cases increases, he said.
Cecília Müller touched on the disease caused by RSV. As he said, children are typically infected by the age of two, but this does not provide lasting protection.
Babies younger than two years old and premature babies are most exposed to RSV infection, and the virus can cause severe pneumonia in them.
In Hungary, RSV vaccination can be given to premature babies younger than six months and children younger than two years who suffer from some kind of heart and lung developmental disorder (bronchopulmonary dysplasia), Cecília Müller explained.
In general, the specialist recommends that during these weeks, babies younger than one-year-old should not be taken to the community, malls, or closed public spaces, and preferably avoid public transport with them.
Cecília Müller also drew attention to the importance of personal hygiene, hand disinfection, frequent hand washing, and frequent ventilation of the apartment.