Poor vaccination blamed for flu epidemic

The World Health Organisation is blaming an ineffective vaccination campaign for the flu epidemic which has hit Switzerland and several other European countries

This content was published on January 11, 2000 - 18:09

The World Health Organisation is blaming an ineffective vaccination campaign for the flu epidemic which has hit Switzerland and several other European countries.

The Geneva-based WHO confirmed that the wave of influenza had reached epidemic proportions in some countries, including Switzerland.

However, Daniel Lavanchy, the WHO's influenza expert, claims that experts correctly predicted that the virulent "Sydney" strain of the flu virus would be prevalent this season. Dr Lavanchy believes the number of cases would have been far lower had the vaccine been used more widely.

International scientists preparing the flu vaccine, which lasts less than a year, try to predict which types of flu virus will be most infectious several months before the main season for the illness.

The vaccine is designed for the elderly and people suffering from other chronic illnesses who are more vulnerable to severe infection. The WHO does not recommend vaccination for the whole population

In Switzerland, doctors have been swamped with patients suffering from flu and the Federal Health Ministry says the number of cases is reaching record proportions. Dr Lavanchy, who is Swiss, says attempts to provide the vaccine in Switzerland have been patchy, with large differences between cantons.

Otherwise the WHO is playing down the strength of the illness, saying that this season's apparent wave of misery is "nothing exceptional" compared with other years.

On average, eight per cent of all current medical appointments in Switzerland are linked to flu-like symptoms, a big jump from the 2.4 per cent two weeks ago. The French-speaking part of the country has been particularly badly affected, with almost 11 per cent of consultations related to influenza.

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