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In total, 353 new influenza cases and 1,308 COVID-19 cases were added this week

In week nine, a grand total of 3,336 people fell ill with acute respiratory infections. Overall, 36.1% of all of the new cases involved children. In total, 353 new influenza cases were registered. A total of 1,308 new COVID-19 cases were also added.

Based on information which had been logged during the Sentinel targeted survey, infections are currently spreading at a moderate rate, with the spread of the influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses remaining extensive. In total, 56.3% of those samples which were analysed were found to be positive for influenza-type viruses. Influenza A forms 18.8% of all Sentinel samples to have been analysed, with influenza B and rhinovirus both forming 12.5%, and the human metapneumovirus (hMPV) and RSV viruses both at 6.3%. There are currently three influenza sub-types circulating in Estonia: the A(H3N2) and A(H1N1) influenza A sub-types and the Victoria influenza B sub-type.

According to information which is available to the Health Board, the spread of influenza has remained stable. In total, 41% of cases involved children under the age of fifteen. The number of new cases increased by 22% in the 0-4 age group. In total, 136 influenza cases were confirmed through laboratory testing, of which forty-five were influenza A cases and ninety-one were influenza B. A total of eight different influenza A sub-types and seventeen influenza B sub-types have been identified, including six A(H1N1)pdm sub-types and two A (H3) sub-types of influenza A. There are three sub-types which are currently circulating in Estonia: the A(H1N1) influenza A sub-type, the Victoria influenza B sub-type, and the H3N2 influenza A subtype. Influenza B is dominating in the form of the Victoria sub-type.

According to initial information from the Health and Welfare Information Systems Centre, twenty-four patients in week nine were hospitalised with influenza (compared to sixteen last week). According to specific information from the centre, thirty-two people were hospitalised. The requirement for hospitalisations grew amongst elderly and working-aged people.

As many as sixteen people have died this season due to influenza. Those individuals were aged between 13-91. One of those individuals had previously been healthy, but all of the others were included in risk groups.

The number of newly-registered COVID-19 cases increased by 37.1% last week. The percentage of positive test results forms 10.3% of all samples analysed (compared to 7.7% for last week). The number of new cases increased by 100% in the 20-24 age group, by 82% in the 55-59 age group, by 76% in the 50-54 age group, and by 38% in the 65-69 and 75-79 age groups. The number of new symptomatic COVID-19 hospitalisation cases over the seven days has dropped from 6.0 to 4.7. In week nine, 120 people were hospitalised, including thirty-two patients due to symptomatic COVID-19 (compared to thirty-nine for last week). The number of people who required hospital treatment decreased by 18% when compared to last week. As there are numerous relatively mild and asymptomatic forms of COVID-19 in circulation, the virus probably continues to spread under the radar.

Based on sequencing data, fully all of those cases were caused by the Omicron strain of COVID-19. The BA.5 Omicron subvariant and the successors of this variant form 31.5% of all sequenced samples. Those variants which have evolved from the BA.2.75 line and the XBB recombinants of BA.2 and its successors form 68.4% of the total. The share of XBB recombinants is growing, forming 54.4% of all samples to have been sequenced. The XBB.1.5 variant forms 12.8% of those samples.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the BA.2, BA.4, and BA.5 subvariants of COVID-19 are no longer deemed to be variants of concern (VOCs) as of 3 March 2023. In circulation today are only ‘variants of interest’ (VOI) and ‘variants under monitoring’ (VUM). This shows that the epidemiological situation is stable.

As the school holidays have ended, the number of new influenza and SARS-CoV-2 cases and related hospitalisations can be expected to increase slowly next week.

On the basis of an extraordinary decision which has been made by the Health Insurance Board, as of 6 February everyone is eligible to receive a free anti-influenza vaccination until the vaccine stocks run out. Vaccination is something which should seriously be considered by any individuals who are included in risk groups, along with those individuals who come into contact with them.

The expert committee on immunoprophylaxis advises everyone over the age of eighty to get the third booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine. A vaccine which has been adjusted to the BA.4-5 Omicron subvariant should be the preferred choice. Any individuals over the age of eighteen who are included in a COVID-19 risk group have also been advised to get themselves revaccinated with the same vaccine if this is deemed necessary by their physician.

Please find the updated overview of the COVID-19 epidemic here (PDF)