Winter is here. This is not only proven by the first snowflakes, it can also be heard from coughing and sneezing in many places. And that is now reflected in the numbers. The federal government has registered an increase in flu-like illnesses. Infectiologist Jan Fehr explains the reasons for this.
Infectiologist and Professor of Public & Global Health
Jan Fehr is an infectiologist and professor at the University of Zurich. He is also head of the Public & Global Health department. The department comprises the departments of Communicable Diseases, Health Research and Occupational Health Management
Prevention and health promotion in the canton of Zurich.
SRF News: Why are we currently seeing an increase in flu-like illnesses?
Jan Fehr: That’s not easy to explain. One consideration is that the pandemic and the measures taken play an essential role here. People had to protect themselves, there was little virus transmission overall and therefore lower case numbers.
It is difficult to assess whether this is already a wave.
But there was also less opportunity for the immune system to prepare for these flu-like illnesses and the circulating viruses. Especially in children, some of whom have not yet seen it and whose immune system is not yet prepared, this could play a role and actually open the floodgates for more infections.
Can one already speak of a flu epidemic?
It is difficult to assess at this stage whether this is already a wave or just the beginning. But the fact of the matter is: we’re seeing some uptick earlier than in other years – and even before the pandemic years.
Not only are the numbers of flu-like infections increasing, hospitals are also recording many cases of bronchitis, for example. Will more people get respiratory infections this year?
Again, it is not easy to keep or get an overview – for various reasons. We still have the corona infections that we have to think about and that make the picture a bit unclear. But as I said, if we look at the figures from the Federal Office of Public Health and also those from cantonal laboratories, we can already see an increase in respiratory infections. And the reason for this could also be that the immune system is not prepared.
The question is a bit, when and how badly will the healthcare system be affected?
If we now venture a look into the future: What are your forecasts in terms of respiratory diseases? Will that go back to normal?
As we have learned over the past two or three years, forecasts are a thing. There is always a return to normal. The question is a bit, when and how badly will the healthcare system be affected? And here we can – as of now – not make any statements. It is important that we are vigilant and take measures so that we are well prepared for this situation. A situation that could at best be even more accentuated in the future.
Nina Gygax conducted the interview.