Latvian flu epidemic will not reach Estonia before January

Flu season.
Flu season. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Despite a flu epidemic being announced in two cities in Latvia this week, the spread of the influenza virus in Estonia is likely to start in January after the Christmas and school holidays end.

In Latvia, last week the number of influenza patients in Riga and Jelgava exceeded the epidemic threshold, but in Estonia the spread of the influenza virus is currently limited. 

Isolated cases have occurred in Tallinn, Ida-Viru County, Lääne-Viru County and Võru County, but so far there are more cases of the influenza B virus which does not spread as fast as influenza A and usually does not cause an epidemic.

Olga Sadikova, chief specialist at the Influenza Center at the Health Board, told ERR the rate of influenza throughout Europe is still low, according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. 

Influenza viruses do not take long to cross national borders. Sadikova gave an example that if, for example, the flu season begins in Spain, the disease will reach Estonia in three weeks.

"In fact, it spreads very quickly because the characteristic of influenza is its rapid multiplication and, secondly, a person can infect others one day before the symptoms appear," he said.

What the dominant strain of flu is this season is not known either in Estonia or Europe. Estonia has previously been infected with the H1N1 virus, the 2009 pandemic influenza virus, and the Victoria influenza B virus, which is commonly referred to as swine flu. 

"I think the real flu season will start in January. Before it is the school holidays and Christmas when people don't go to the doctor and there are no statistics," said Sadikova.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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