Bulgaria warned of serious winter flu wave

Health authorities in Bulgaria expect a more serious wave of influenza this winter, both because of the decline in immunity among the public in the past two and a half years, and drawing on the experience of southern hemisphere countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

However, if the public take precautions and get vaccinated against flu, a serious wave could be avoided.

This was the message from Bulgaria’s Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev and other senior medical personnel at a news conference on October 12.

“Australia and New Zealand faced their strongest flu epidemic in the past five to six years. We expect that it will probably be the same here,” Kunchev said.

He said that this mainly because public immunity to influenza viruses has decreased.

“For two and a half years, we had practically no specific encounter with influenza strains, and since then our immunity has been significantly weakened, which opens the way to a wider spread,” Kunchev said.

Valeri Tsevkov, head of the Bulgarian Association for Innovative Medicine, said: “The flu season in the southern hemisphere started quite early and was quite intense. This has led all the experts on acute respiratory diseases in the northern hemisphere to warn that there is a possibility that this year’s flu season will be a bit more serious”.

Tsekov said that it was impossible to guess how serious it will be, but from the data in Australia and New Zealand, it was expected that “a usual flu season with a fairly high intensity of diseases”.

Kunchev said that the first flu cases could be expected in November, followed by an increase in December, with the peak of the flu probably in January and February.

He said that it was best to have the vaccine before Christmas, so that there is time for antibodies to build up.

Kunchev said that the most suitable period for vaccination is now – in October, but November is also a good time.

Bulgarian Medical Association member Dr Nikolai Brunzalov, a general practitioner, said that he had noticed that this year, more people were willing to be vaccinated against the flu, which was a good sign.

Tsekov said: “Before the National Influenza Prevention Programme was launched (for free vaccination of people over 65), flu vaccine coverage was two per cent in 2016.

“Last year we reached 16 per cent – this is a huge leap forward and I assume that it will increase in the following years if the programme continues to operate,” Tsekov said.

The national programme currently has available 190 000 doses of vaccines for people, following the delivery of 350 000.

Kunchev told the news conference: “In the situation in which Bulgaria finds itself, with several parallel crises – financial, economic, energy, political, the last thing we need is a severe flu epidemic.

“Our aspiration is for it to be less severe, to lose more few people. During a severe wave, we lost between 2000 and 3000 people,” he said.

“Against the background of the 40 000 who lost the battle with Covid, including 74 general practitioners, it is unforgivable to lose more. Therefore, let’s get vaccinated,” Kunchev said.

(Photo: Lotus Head/freeimages.com)

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