After Corona – now hundreds of thousands are sick with the flu

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After three years of the Corona pandemic, the real flu returned this winter – and in sevenfold strength. In addition, there are numerous colds.

It was the most unpleasant comeback this winter: The flu is back. Benefiting from Corona protections, flu seasons in 2020/21 and 2021/22 had been relatively mild. But with the elimination of mandatory masks (except in Vienna) and spacing rules, infection numbers went back up massively this year.

At the same time, influenza, in particular, i.e. the real flu, carries a high health risk and can also be fatal for risk groups.

Between November 2022 and January 2023, there were 22,650 cases of influenza in Austria. In November and December, around 400 patients had to be treated in hospitals for influenza. That is seven times as many as in 2019 – before the pandemic. More than 700,000 people were on sick leave for flu-related infections between November and January.

Symptoms range from fever, aching limbs and throat, and coughing, lasting up to 14 days during influenza. It can take several weeks for those who become ill to recover fully. Effective protection against influenza is provided by a flu vaccination – especially this year because the virus strains of the flu vaccine selected by the WHO cover the currently circulating influenza viruses very well. Regular hand washing and wearing an FFP2 mask when many people come together will also protect against infection.

Influenza and flu-like infections usually start very similar and differ mainly in the duration and severity of the course of the illness. In the case of an influenza infection, it takes up to seven days for all symptoms to subside.

Austria had almost four million sick days this winter due to influenza or an influenza-like infection. In comparison, employees were on sick leave for 760,138 days due to a corona illness.

57 million sick leave days were recorded in total in 2022. The most common reasons for sick leave are flu-like infections, diarrhea and viral diseases or diseases of the spine and back. Austrians took just under 10 sick days on average in 2022. Women and men call in sick for roughly the same number of days per year, 9.7 (women) to 9.66 (men).

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