In the week of December 5-11, a total of 5,338 people in Estonia contracted acute respiratory infections, including 2,991 cases of COVID-19 and 804 cases of influenza, 160 of which were laboratory confirmed, the Health Board said Thursday.
41 percent of those to fall ill last week were children, and while morbidity remained steady on week, flu cases went up 245 percent and hospitalizations 60 percent, the Health Board said in a press release.
According to Olga Sadikova, chief specialist at the Health Board's Influenza Center, current morbidity can be assessed as medium, as the spread of the flu virus is currently persistent and widespread.
"Most of those who are sick are children up to 5 years of age," Sadikova noted. "The increase in the incidence of illness among children has halted; morbidity is increasing primarily among working-age people." Nonetheless, she added, the spread of the flu virus is alarmingly rapid.
Last week, influenza A viruses accounted for 25 percent of all tested sentinel samples. Of those confirmed to have been infected with influenza A viruses, one third have been working-age people.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (hMPV), meanwhile, accounted for 10 percent of cases each. Approximately 70 percent of RSV cases involved children under age 4 and elderly patients; hMPV cases were likewise more frequent among children. Human parainfluenza viruses (HPIVs), the rhinovirus and the SARS-CoV-2 virus, meanwhile, equally accounted for 6 percent of cases.
Since the start of the season, 73 influenza A virus variants have been identified, including 65 A(H3) strains and eight A(H1) strains.
First flu death of the season, 15 die with COVID
According to initial data from the Health and Welfare Information Systems Center (TEHIK), 24 patients were hospitalized in Estonia due to the flu last week. Since the beginning of the current flu season, a total of 54 people have been hospitalized with the flu, 42.6 percent of whom have been children and young people, 20.7 percent working-age people and 29.6 percent elderly.
An 87-year-old flu patient died last week, marking the first flu-related death of the season recorded in Estonia.
A total of 2,991 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed last week, marking a 10 percent increase in the number of registered cases. A noticeable increase in cases was registered among those over 80 years of age, and another new outbreak was recorded at a care home, bringing the current total number of care home outbreaks across Estonia to three.
The reproduction number, R, has remained stable, and the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus remains widespread, the Health Board said.
As of Tuesday morning, 266 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized across the country, 91 of whom required hospitalization specifically due to symptomatic COVID-19. According to the seven-day rolling average, the number of people newly hospitalized due to symptomatic COVID increased from 8.7 to 10.3.
A total of 15 people died due to COVID last week, all of whom had serious comorbidities.
Of those hospitalized for symptomatic COVID, 60 percent were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated against the virus.
Considering the increase in morbidity among the elderly, the number of hospitalizations is expected to rise in the weeks to come.
Vaccination remains crucial preventive measure
As cases of both remain on the rise, Sadikova stressed that both the flu and COVID are serious illnesses, both of which rely on vaccination as a vital preventive measure.
The Health Board reminds people experiencing any symptoms of illness to avoid contact with loved ones and remain home until they are no longer symptomatic, and avoid going to work or school at all costs.
If you have fallen severely ill with an upper respiratory virus, contact your family doctor or call the nationwide family doctor hotline at 1220.
Editor: Aili Vahtla