Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason believes that the waning COVID-19 pandemic is slowly being replaced by an influenza epidemic. The health authorities encourage individuals with underlying conditions to receive flu shots.
Brynjar Níelsson gets the flu
Last week, Brynjar Níelsson, Assistant to the Minister of Justice, published an essay on the subject of “pushy people” on his Facebook page.
While the former MP’s meditations were mildly interesting, the disclaimer that accompanied his post was even more noteworthy.
“I am extremely sick with the flu and nearly delirious,” Brynjar wrote (ensuring that any controversial statements could be chalked up to the delirious effects of the flu).
… but Brynjar Níelsson isn’t the only one who’s been suffering.
Up to 3,000 visits daily
In an interview with the radio programme Reykjavík síðdegis on Wednesday, Óskar Reykdalsson – Director of Capital Area Health Clinics – observed that the annual flu appeared to be “circulating among the populace in full force.”
Óskar estimated that up to 3,000 people visit capital-area clinics every day, complaining of common-cold symptoms, fever, and a cough.
Among those who have had reason to complain is singer Heiðar Örn Kristjánsson (who competed with Pollapönk in the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest) whose upcoming gig at Gamli Enski in Hafnarfjörður was cancelled for this very reason.
“Heiðar Örn has the flu and has lost his voice,” Gamli Enski announced on its FB page in early March. “In light of this, DJ Drinkalot will be filling in.”
If only Heiðar Örn had taken preventive action …
Flu shots are sensible
The health authorities in Iceland imported 95,000 doses of flu vaccine last year, and an estimated 68,000 individuals have been vaccinated since last fall. There is still plenty of vaccine available.
“It’s not too late to get vaccinated,” Óskar Reykdalsson stated in his interview with Reykjavík síðdegis, “so long as you haven’t been exposed to the flu.”
Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason made the same point in an interview with RÚV this morning, where he encouraged everyone to get their flu shots. “Especially those with underlying conditions.”
“We’ve also been encouraging doctors to treat people with underlying conditions as quickly as possible in the event that they become sick. That undoubtedly helps prevent serious illness.”
Social restrictions to blame
The reason why the influenza epidemic is so forceful this year owes to the social restrictions imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years.
According to Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, these restrictions prevented common annual bugs from spreading.
“So we can expect a significant circulation of these bugs now, because the flu hasn’t been spreading for the past two years,” Þórólfur remarked this morning. “This usually means that immune systems are much weaker than they otherwise would be.”
“What’s happening now is what I suggested could happen, that is, that we’re getting an extensive influenza epidemic,” Þórólfur continued. “We don’t know how extensive it will be, or how serious, because it’s just beginning.”