The latest edition of the Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report shows that Europe is still reporting low influenza activity. ECDC has been monitoring the patterns of human influenza infection in the southern hemisphere countries in their winters as well as our own experience in Europe of last season as this gives some indication of what can be expected in the following northern hemisphere winter.
In a recent published article in Eurosurveillance, ECDC experts highlighted the diversity of experience in the 2011 influenza season (May to October) in the southern hemisphere. Though this was dominated by the A(H1N1) viruses that emerged during the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic and influenza B viruses, the proportion of these two varied between and within countries and influenza A(H3N2) viruses were also seen. It is important to note that the pattern of influenza in the southern hemisphere is only one of the many factors that the Centre takes into consideration in formulating its annual risk assessment in relation to severity and impact for epidemics of influenza.
During the influenza season citizens should adopt preventative measures recommended by their national authorities. These include personal hygiene measures and vaccination for those recommended. Vaccination is the single most effective way to prevent serious illness.
ECDC Director Marc Sprenger says: "Every year we know that many people, especially those in risk groups, will suffer as a consequence of influenza. ECDC takes its role in monitoring and providing scientific evidence on influenza very seriously in order to help countries and citizens prepare for the upcoming influenza season. However, even where we have experiences from other parts of the world to draw from we must also recognise that influenza is always unpredictable. Anticipating the precise nature of the European influenza season is difficult.
ECDC will continue to monitor activity in Europe in order to get the best picture of the emerging season but in the meantime I would like to stress that all Europeans who are recommended to have the influenza vaccine by their national authorities should get vaccinated as soon as possible. It is not too late to get vaccinated and it is of particular importance for those in the recognised risk groups and for healthcare workers".
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