The state of epidemiological alert – an epidemic with a different hat. How long will flu season last?

Romania entered a state of epidemiological alert at the end of last week due to the flu. This after the number of respiratory infections doubled in the last three weeks, and deaths tripled. Basically, the state of epidemiological alert is similar to the epidemic of the past years.

Romania is in a state of epidemiological alert due to the flu – Photo Archive

The Ministry of Health declared a state of epidemiological alert due to the flu. The decision was taken after, in the last three weeks, the number of respiratory infections recorded weekly doubled at the end of January, compared to the beginning of the year, and the number of deaths tripled, according to information published by the National Center for Surveillance and Control of Communicable Diseases (CNSCBT ) from the National Institute of Public Health. The institution draws attention to the fact that we have a quarter more illnesses per week compared to the average for the years 2016-2023 and over 35% more cases compared to the same period last year, more precisely 133,057 cases of respiratory infections (clinical flu, IACRS and pneumonia) in the week of January 22-28.

The most cases were reported in Bucharest – 1,301, Cluj – 1,032 and Prahova – 582. A total of 51 deaths were recorded.

What is an epidemiological alert?

In this context, Alexandru Rafila, the Minister of Health, said on Thursday that Romania is in a state of epidemiological alert.

This is a third consecutive week of growth, above the average level, registered in the last five years. It is called epidemic week“, said the Minister of Health.

The Minister of Health believes that the peak of illnesses will be reached this week or next, and to prevent illness it is recommended: avoiding crowds, wearing a protective mask for people with symptoms, hand hygiene, isolation at home for those who are sick.

The last time a flu epidemic was declared in Romania was four years ago, in 2020, after more than 7,000 flu cases were registered in one week. Now, more than 9,000 cases of flu have been reported between January 22-28, and that's why the state of epidemiological alert has been announced. Basically, this year's epidemiological alert is the flu epidemic of past years.

This situation of epidemiological alert due to the flu is similar to the declaration of the epidemic four years ago, there is no difference. We have clear measures for hospitals, and hospital managers must apply those measures regarding the use of protective equipment, including masks for both medical staff and those who come into contact with patients, (…) ensure stocks of sanitary materials , disinfectants, antiviral medication. But, for the rest, there are recommendations for the population, for employers, for educational institutions. It was always exactly the same situation. The problem was that in 2020 there was a law generated by the pandemic, Law 136/2020, which, if we declared an epidemic, would impose certain mandatory measures such as quarantine or isolation“, explained Alexandru Rafila.

Thus, the visiting hours of hospitalized patients will be limited in the health units, the epidemiological triage will be carried out daily for the medical and auxiliary personnel, protective equipment consisting of a mask, gloves, gown will be worn by the medical personnel and other persons who come into contact with patients.

Employees in all sectors of activity should avoid crowding in work spaces, isolate themselves at home if they have symptoms of a respiratory infection and get vaccinated against influenza. On the other hand, there are general measures for the population to limit the number of illnesses: consultation with the family doctor when respiratory symptoms appear, isolation at home; for people with respiratory symptoms, it is recommended to wear a protective mask if they have to move in the community; compliance with cough and sneeze etiquette, use of disposable handkerchiefs; maintaining adequate hand hygiene, in order to reduce the spread of the virus; avoiding crowds, ventilating closed spaces and wearing a protective mask; continuation of influenza vaccination.

Flu in schools

Alexandru Rafila advised parents who “they have sick children, who sneeze, have a fever, symptoms specific to viruses” to keep them at home, also recommending daily triage in schools.

According to the instructions of the Ministry of Health, the Directorates of Public Health should collaborate with the school inspectorates in order to introduce the following preventive measures in schools: carrying out daily triage in school communities; informing parents or legal guardians about the signs and symptoms of respiratory infections; providing the necessary materials for the periodic disinfection of hands and surfaces; periodic airing of the rooms; compliance with cough and sneeze etiquette, use of disposable handkerchiefs.

How long will flu season last?

Doctor Emilian Popovici, vice-president of the Romanian Society of Epidemiology, estimates that we still have “between 3 and 6 weeksuntil the end of the flu season.

How long will the flu last in this epidemic season? Since, according to the statements made by the officials, we are registering the 3rd consecutive week of overcoming the epidemic threshold, we can consider the fact that a manifestation of this kind of flu lasts between 6 and 9 weeks! So between now and the end a period of time between 3 and 6 weeks must pass! It's the only correct projection and all that can be said at this point! The rest are opinions!“, the epidemiologist said.

How to avoid the flu :

– flu vaccination;

– avoiding human crowds;

– protective mask.

– avoiding contact with people showing symptoms of respiratory infection;

– frequent hand washing or use of disinfectant;

– cough, sneeze – in a tissue or in the crook of the elbow and hand disinfection.

Symptoms of flu, cold, respiratory syncytial virus, COVID-19

Flu symptoms: High fever (> 38.5-39° C) lasting 3-5 days, chills, headache and sore throat, persistent cough, persistent muscle pain and joint pain, physical asthenia. Symptoms start suddenly and last 7-10 days.

Symptoms of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection are: cough, runny nose, fever, wheezing, rapid breathing, infant apnea (pauses in breathing). Symptoms last about two weeks.

Common cold symptoms: stuffy nose, abundant nasal secretions, sporadic cough, sore throat, subfebrile (up to 38° C) or moderate fever, self-limited evolution. Symptoms start gradually and last for 5-7 days at the most.

Symptoms of COVID-19: fever, cough, fatigue, difficulty breathing, sore throat, hoarseness, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, headache.