Health Board: Kids up to 15 accounted for 40 percent of all new flu cases

PCR testing equipment at a Health Board lab. Photo is illustrative.
PCR testing equipment at a Health Board lab. Photo is illustrative. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

In the week of January 16-22, a total of 3,844 people in Estonia contracted acute respiratory infections, 31.7 percent of whom were children. In all, 599 new cases of influenza and 1,169 cases of COVID-19 were registered last week, the Health Board said Thursday.

Compared with the previous week, the number of patients who sought medical attention for acute upper respiratory infections or COVID-19 had decreased — by 16 and 13 percent, respectively, according to a press release.

The number of new flu cases, meanwhile, remained steady on week, however the number of laboratory-confirmed cases rose by 36 percent. Children up to the age of 15 accounted for 40 percent of all flu cases last week.

According to data gathered via sentinel surveillance of acute upper respiratory infections, the incidence of infections can be assessed as moderate but the spread of influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses remaining extensive. Flu morbidity remains stable, although it has increased among children up to age 4, while COVID morbidity is on a slight downward trend, although it has increased among school-aged children.

The etiological situation of viruses currently circulating in Estonia has begun to change, however. Based on initial information, 55 percent of all tested sentinel samples tested positive for influenza-type viruses, with influenza A and SARS-CoV-2 viruses equally accounting for a combined 11.1 percent of all tested samples.

The share of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases continued to increase, meanwhile, accounting for 16.7 percent of all tested sentinel samples.

12 flu deaths this season

According to initial data from the Health and Welfare Information Systems Center (TEHIK), 56 patients were hospitalized in Estonia due to the flu last week — down from 60 last week — with specified data bringing the total number of hospitalizations in the previous two weeks to 112.  

The need for hospital treatment remains high among the elderly; 71.4 percent of patients requiring hospitalization last week were over the age of 65.

A total of 747 people have been hospitalized with the flu this season. In all, 12 people between the ages of 33-91 have died due to complications from the flu, all of whom belonged to risk groups.

In total, 1,169 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Estonia last week, marking an overall decrease of 13.3 percent on week in the number of registered cases.

A total of 12 people died due to COVID last week as well, ranging in age from 43-97, and all of whom had serious comorbidities

As of this Tuesday morning, 139 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized across the country, 55 of whom required hospitalization specifically due to symptomatic COVID-19.

Omicron BA.5, subvariants still most widespread

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 90 percent of all cases.

Sequencing has revealed three new XBB1.5 recombinants of the Omicron variant. According to the Health Board, XBB1.5 spreads faster thanks to its mutations, and in certain cases can break through protection provided by the immune system.

At this point, nothing indicates that the severity of cases related to the XBB.1.5 variant differs from previously circulating Omicron subvariants. Being infected with the XBB.1.5 variant may pose a risk, however, to those who have not completed a primary round of COVID vaccinations, who have not gotten a booster or have not previously contracted the virus.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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