Health Board: Winter break slows spread, but COVID, flu cases still rising

COVID-19 rapid tests.
COVID-19 rapid tests. Source: Pixabay

In the week of January 2-8, a total of 5,265 people in Estonia contracted acute respiratory infections, 29 percent of whom were children. A total of 983 new cases of influenza and 1,712 new cases of COVID-19 were registered last week, the Health Board said Thursday.

Compared with the previous week, the number of patients seeking medical attention for acute upper respiratory infections, the flu as well as COVID had all declined — by 24, 33 and 48 percent, respectively. This decrease could be attributed to winter break and the winter holidays, the Health Board said in a press release.

According to data gathered via sentinel surveillance of acute upper respiratory infections, the incidence of infections can be assessed as high and the spread of influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses broad; morbidity, meanwhile, is showing signs of stabilizing. Schools' three-week winter break slowed the spread of the viruses, however both flu and COVID case numbers are continuing to slowly increase.

Last week, influenza A viruses accounted for 30.6 percent of all tested sentinel samples. Of those confirmed to have been infected with influenza A viruses, the majority have been school-aged children and adults. Currently dominating are A(H3) strains, although A(H1N1)pdm is accounting for an increasing share of infections.

The share of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases remains on a slow rise, meanwhile, accounting for 19.4 percent of all new cases last week, with children under four continuing to account for the majority of cases. Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) accounted for 13.9 percent of cases, while human parainfluenza viruses (HPIVs), the rhinovirus and the SARS-CoV-2 virus equally accounted for 2.8 percent of cases.

According to initial data from the Health and Welfare Information Systems Center (TEHIK), 76 patients were hospitalized in Estonia due to the flu last week, with specified data bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the previous two weeks to 150. Last week saw a significant increase in flu hospitalizations among those over the age of 65.

Since the beginning of the current flu season, a total of 460 people have been hospitalized with the flu.

No flu deaths, 13 die with COVID

A total of 1,712 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed last week, marking an overall decrease of 33.3 percent on week in the number of registered cases.

A total of 13 people died due to COVID last week, ranging in age from 69-96, and all of whom had serious comorbidities.

As of this Tuesday morning, 175 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized across the country, 79 of whom required hospitalization specifically due to symptomatic COVID-19.

The Health Board and University of Tartu are working together to monitor COVID strains making the rounds in Estonia. According to sequencing data, Omicron strains currently account for 100 percent of infections in Estonia, with Omicron BA.5 and subsequent subvariants alone continuing to account for more than 95 percent.

To date, the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant has yet to be identified among sequenced samples in Estonia.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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