Global immune deficiency
The lack of a true flu season last year means that our bodies weren't stimulated and our level of protection wasn't reinforced like in previous years. This means that everyone's immune system is a little bit weaker this year. Even a smaller dose of the usual virus will be enough to make us sick, and the same dose will affect us more severely. Pediatricians are also seeing that not only is influenza more widespread this year, but also other viruses too (e.g. hand, foot and mouth disease).
Another effect of the less severe flu outbreaks of the last few years is that this year, the season has started earlier than before and is expected to last not just for the usual 6-8 weeks, but for several months. We can also expect to see people getting ill in greater numbers too.
In relation to last year's lack of a flu season, pediatrician and infectologist Dr László Papp stresses the importance of external protection. A mask (of any kind) is one form of external protection. It makes a difference because at the moment of infection, the really important question is the size of the dose of the infectious virus that enters the body, and how much of it reaches the lungs, not just the nose. The viral dosage you receive varies depending on both the pathogen and individual, as different immune systems can fight varying levels of the virus. Similarly, you can also protect yourself through regular, thorough handwashing and maintaining a distance of one-and-a-half metres from others.
In addition to external protection, when it comes to vaccination infectologists cannot stress enough that they are not vaccinating with a live virus. With a flu vaccine, the material is actually inactivated: it is a subunit vaccine, which contains only the surface antigens (H and N) of the influenza virus. If people complain they got the flu after vaccination, it just means that they already had the virus lurking in their body asymptomatically, and the onset of illness has nothing to do with the vaccination. One thing that is clear is that we really protect those who need it the most – people over 60, people with chronic respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, people with reduced immunity, and women who are pregnant or planning to have children. In this case, both they and their family members should request the vaccination. Although the flu is not as deadly as Covid, it is still very dangerous. It can be clearly seen from the national mortality statistics in Hungary that peak mortality falls between January and March every year. This figure can be clearly linked to the flu and its complications.
We are used to seeing the flu season beginning in the second week of January and usually lasting 6-8 weeks – this is the peak period. The timing depends mostly on the general habits in the life of our community. The weather also makes a difference, of course, but not to the same extent. After the Christmas break, children return to school and are often the first to catch and spread thise highly infectious disease. Then, from the third and fourth weeks of the epidemic, adults also ”catch up”.
If you feel like 'everything hurts', there's a good chance it's the flu.
This year, the A type of influenza is more widespread than the B type, and also produces the most severe symptoms. The vaccine provided at RMC contains a combination of both virus strains.
This year too, the usual symptoms of influenza are the short incubation period (1-2 days), sudden high fever, fatigue, aching arms and legs, tearing up (watery eyes), a red face, chills due to high fever, headache, and a runny nose and dry cough from 2-3 days onwards.