Flu 2021: what lies ahead?
Flu 2021: the return to ‘almost’ normality and the relaxation of prescriptions from Covid, favoured by the good performance of the vaccination campaign, could favour the return of influenza this year. What will the 2021-2022 flu be like?
Winter 2021: last year flu and acute respiratory infections were rather mild, and this was due to the lockdown restrictions and the massive use of masks and the new etiquette
Also thanks to the massive vaccination campaign, it is expected that there will be a slight relaxation in prescriptions in light of the resumption of work in presence, therefore less smart working, going against a whole series of situations (such as typical temperature changes), fertile ground for respiratory infections.
The reduction in the flu has also demonstrated the effectiveness of the mask and all the provisions (continuous hand hygiene, interpersonal distance, etc.) because it has limited, in a sense, the further spread of covid-19, but despite this we must never lower our guard, all the more so as we are returning to a more or less normal life.
The characteristics of flu 2021
From the point of view of the virus, 2 A variants have been identified, H1N1 and H3N2, which are different from those that have circulated in the past; in this sense, the potential of the virus could be that of a season of medium intensity, from 4 to 6 million cases.
The symptoms are the most traditional
- the presence of at least one respiratory symptom (e.g. runny/clogged nose, sneezing, sore throat, etc.);
- an abrupt rise in body temperature from at least 38°C;
- the presence of at least one general systemic symptom, such as chills, exhaustion, joint pain, etc.
Flu 2021, who can get vaccinated
The flu vaccination must absolutely be reiterated and emphasised, from the point of view of the vaccination campaign, which last year was the largest in past history, where there were still insufficient adhesions.
It is in any case an effective protection strategy.
Vaccination is recommended above all for the elderly (60-64 years) and those at risk, but it also represents an opportunity in healthy individuals to avoid absenteeism linked to the disease and above all differential diagnosis with covid.
This is because the Delta variant has lost some of the peculiarity of the symptomatology of loss of taste and smell, looking more and more like a flu-like illness.
The subjects who can be vaccinated, according to the directives of the Ministry of Health, are:
- children from 6 months onwards
- young people aged 18 and over
- the elderly of the same age or over 65;
- pregnant and post-partum women;
- persons aged 6 months to 65 years with conditions that increase the risk of complications from influenza (e.g. severe chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, diabetes). serious chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases, chronic renal/adrenal insufficiency; diseases of the haemopoietic organs and haemoglobinopathies; people with cancer and/or undergoing chemotherapy; diseases causing antibody deficiency or leading to immunosuppression or HIV; chronic inflammatory diseases and intestinal malabsorption syndromes; diseases involving major surgery; diseases associated with an increased risk of aspiration of respiratory secretions; chronic liver disease);
- children and adolescents on long-term treatment with acetylsalicylic acid who are at risk of Reye’s syndrome in the event of a flu infection
- individuals of any age admitted to long-term care facilities;
- family members and contacts of individuals at high risk for complications (whether or not the individual at risk has been vaccinated)
- physicians and health care workers in facilities who, through their activities, are able to transmit influenza to those at high risk of influenza complications
- police forces, fire brigades and other socially useful categories that could benefit from vaccination, for reasons linked to the performance of their work; in this regard, vaccination is recommended and it is up to the Regions/PP.AA. to define the principles and procedures for offering it to these categories
- personnel who, for work reasons, are in contact with animals that could be a source of infection with non-human influenza viruses: breeders, livestock breeders, live animal transporters, slaughterers and vaccinators, public and free-lance veterinarians
- blood donors.
One administration (usually in the deltoid) is sufficient for all persons except children under 9 years of age: if they have never had a vaccination, they should have 2 doses, one at least 4 weeks apart.
Co-administration of flu vaccine and anticovid vaccine
A few days ago, the Ministry of Health issued a circular confirming the possibility of co-administration in the same session, at two different sites, of both the flu vaccine and the anti-covid vaccine.
This provision, already discussed in other countries and supported on the basis of some ongoing evaluations and studies, represents a useful opportunity for those citizens and elderly people who have to undergo the third dose (or citizens who are starting the cycle or who are on their second administration).
This would simplify the organisational and management aspects of both types of vaccine, while also guaranteeing protection against influenza, which, as every year, must be renewed for all subjects, without running the risk of being found unprepared.
Certainly, this year, factors such as the reopening and resumption of work and school in attendance have favoured an increase in the likelihood of the risk of contagion without, however, being able to count on more restrictive non-pharmacological interventions than last year (such as lockdown) to completely eliminate the risk of influenza.
In addition, as mentioned above, the Delta variant has slightly changed its symptomatology, which is very similar to that of influenza, so the opportunity for double coverage is certainly worth taking.