The winter 2019-2020 flu epidemic has arrived

The three major strains of flu circulating can be protected by vaccine, officials say. Keystone / Sebastian Gollnow

After a quiet start to winter 2019-2020, cases of flu crossed the “epidemic” barrier in the second week of January, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said on Wednesday.

This content was published on January 15, 2020 - 17:56

An epidemic is classified as when 69 or more people per 100,000 consult their doctor with flu symptoms in a week; and numbers for the second week in January were largely above this, at 95 per 100,000, the FOPH reported.

And though it’s not rare for such numbers to be reached during flu season, this year – as in 2018-2019 – the threshold has been crossed quite late. Even last week, the health office reckoned that the country had been spared a tough season this year.

Last year, when an epidemic was also declared in the second week of January, before peaking in mid-February and subsiding again at the end of March.

This year, the most affected age groups are 15-29-year-olds and 0-4-year-olds, both groups with “most social contacts”, according to Daniel Koch of the FOPH.

French-speaking cantons in south-western Switzerland, and canton Bern, are the most affected by the disease.

Koch told Swiss public radio, RTS, that three separate viruses are going around, and that all three are covered by the vaccines currently available. “Vaccinated people should therefore be protected against getting the flu this year,” he said.

The most vulnerable groups to developing complications from the flu are those with weaker immune systems such as babies and the elderly, he said.

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