The run-up to Christmas in Germany is being marred by increasing numbers of infections with acute respiratory diseases. Corona, colds and flu are still or increasingly on the rise, as shown by data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The report on the situation in the week up to December 10th estimates that there were around 7.9 million acute respiratory diseases (previous report: 7.1 million) nationwide, regardless of doctor visits.
After Corona in particular had dominated for a long time, the RKI recently announced the beginning of the RSV wave (RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus infections). Now flu detections are also increasing significantly.
According to the RKI definition, the flu wave, caused by influenza viruses, has not yet begun. “So far, influenza illnesses have primarily affected school-age children and young adults,” the report says.
The number of reports, i.e. cases of influenza confirmed in the laboratory, is still relatively low nationwide at around 1,400 for the previous week. However, it has more than doubled compared to the previous week. Corona is detected much more frequently in this country: around 26,850 sick people were reported last week. The reporting figures for both diseases should be seen as the tip of the iceberg.
Corona means: One additional pathogen
Overall, the RKI estimates that last week 9,500 per 100,000 inhabitants had an acute respiratory illness (previous week's report: around 8,500). This time a year ago the rate was even higher - lower in several of the previous years, but this may also be partly due to the Corona measures taken at the time.
In the case of respiratory diseases, the development can vary considerably from season to season. According to experts, a small catch-up effect could still play a role given the currently high levels: This means that a few more people may be infected with pathogens with which they did not come into contact or came into contact less frequently than usual during the pandemic years.
“But of course you also have to take into account that we now have one more pathogen for respiratory diseases,” said Dortmund immunologist Carsten Watzl to the German Press Agency. If you look at the currently relatively high proportion of Sars-CoV-2 in all respiratory infections, it is no wonder that the overall incidence is above the level of the years before the pandemic.
People may be more aware
“In addition, it can be assumed that there will be greater attention among the population,” said Bremen epidemiologist Hajo Zeeb. And this also tends to result in more visits to the doctor because of respiratory diseases, which could also be reflected in the statistics or the number of incapacity for work.
Watzl vehemently contradicts claims that the hygiene measures during the pandemic could have damaged the immune system. This is simply not true. "I don't have to train my immune system through infections for it to be active in the first place." The fact that avoided infections from back then are now catching up does not mean a weakening of the immune system.
Severe corona courses are not history
Despite basic immunity through vaccinations and infections in the population, severe cases are not completely a thing of the past. A corona infection can “still make you quite sick,” said Charité expert Leif Sander recently on Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB). “Also the kind we saw a few years ago.” Reasons could be a recent vaccination or poor immunization. He therefore considers a certain degree of caution necessary: voluntarily wearing a mask is sensible in a very crowded subway - also to protect against other viruses.
The Corona warnings from Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) over the past few days were followed by criticism from the head of statutory health insurance doctors, Andreas Gassen, on Wednesday. “I think his warnings and appeals are excessive in terms of urgency. After all, we no longer have a pandemic situation,” Gassen told the “Rheinische Post”. In the past, everyone was advised not to wear a mask and to avoid Christmas parties indoors because of colds or the flu. “What makes sense is vaccination against corona and flu for all older people and risk groups,” said Gassen.