Italy experiencing “most severe flu season”: health authorities

Rome: Italy is in the midst of its “most severe flu season in years,” with some 7.8 million Italians suffering flu-like symptoms since October 2023, according to the latest data from the Italian National Institute of Health.

The peak in flu infections came during the week spanning the New Year, with a slow decline since then. The current infection levels are higher than in previous years, with the caseload in this winter set to surpass the 14 million cases in the winter of 2022-23.

The number of COVID-19 cases declined this month. A weekly bulletin from the Ministry of Health released Friday showed 9,675 new infections during the week between Jan. 11-17, less than half the level from a week earlier.

Meanwhile, Italy recently announced it had completed over 2 million vaccinations against the Omicron’s subvariant XBB.

Health officials warned that although the infection levels for both seasonal influenza and the coronavirus appear to have peaked, there was a risk of new variants. They encouraged people, especially the elderly and the vulnerable, to be prudent.

This month, the Ministry of Health extended rules for the obligatory use of masks until at least June 30 for hospitals and old-age homes.

Recently, flu and COVID-19 have spread to varying degrees in some European countries. In Latvia, influenza continued to spread fast over the last week, with cases doubling from a week before, while COVID cases tended to decline, the Latvian Center for Disease Prevention and Control said Wednesday.

A monitor of upper respiratory infections showed that 111 Latvians were diagnosed with flu last week, which is roughly twice as many as a week before. During the same period, COVID-19 cases dropped slightly to 122, from 138 cases recorded in the previous week.