Flu epidemic is over: Neither of regions has epidemic threshold exceeded – Svyatoslav Protas


Kyiv, February 23, 2016. Ukraine’s Healthcare Ministry officially reports that the flu epidemic in Ukraine is over. “We herewith state that the epidemic of flu and ARVI in Ukraine is officially over. Our statement is based on analysis of flu incidence over the last week. It demonstrated that the flu incidence threshold does not exceed the epidemic threshold in any of the regions of our country,” said Svyatoslav Protas, acting Head of the State sanitary epidemiological service of Ukraine, acting chief sanitary doctor of Ukraine. At the same time he noted that increased level of flu incidence stands in 36 administrative districts and in six cities, thus restrictive measures have been prolonged in 56 educational establishments.

Svyatoslav Protas reminded that this year the flu epidemic lasted four weeks and claimed 329 lives. “Analysis of causes for such high mortality rate demonstrates that people are indifferent to their health. Almost all lethal cases include the persons who were not vaccinated and turned for medical assistance late,” emphasized the acting Head of the State sanitary epidemiological service of Ukraine, acting chief sanitary doctor of Ukraine. He added that flu vaccination coverage in Ukraine constitutes less than one percent of its population in comparison to that of 30 percent in the EU. He noted that to avoid such situation in the next season Ukraine’s Healthcare Ministry decided to introduce mandatory preventive flu vaccinations for persons of the high risk group over the year – including the groups based on medical and epidemic risks. “These groups include the persons with high risk level of clinical complications – these are the people suffering collateral chronic pathologies of airways, cardiovascular system, kidneys, suffering other chronic diseases, persons older than 60 and pregnant women. Epidemic risk groups include medical staff, employees at educational, trade and transportation sectors,” reminded Protas. Company management in the above sectors as well as local executive authorities will be designated responsible for their vaccination. “It will be a priority for our country – to announce vaccination and follow its results: follow immune strength and how it changes over the time. These means are available to the healthcare institutions and to the Sanitary Epidemic Service,” said Roman Rodyna, acting director of Ukrainian Center for Control and Monitoring at the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine. Emphasis is to be made on vaccination of elderly – it is planned to bring vaccination coverage rate of persons older than 60 to 75 percent.

According to the results of virus-based monitoring, АH1N1 strain prevailed over the recent flu wave – same strain that caused the 2009 pandemic. “Eighty two percent of lethal cases were caused by the pandemic АH1N1 flu virus,” said Rodyna. He added that the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently researching the virus for possible mutations that it might have suffered since 2009. He also said that the WHO data of this year on flu incidence in Europe shows that the epidemic wave was moving from the east to the west this time, not from the west to the east as in previous years. “It may explain why Ukraine was among the first states that registered high incidence and mortality level,” noted Rodyna. In European countries the epidemic was caused by the АH1N1 pandemic strain except for the Western Europe where the flu of B virus prevailed up to 40 percent and Turkey where H3N2 strain was a typical one.

Roman Rodyna noted that the first wave of the flu and ARVI epidemic is now over, however experts do not rule out the second wave. “It means that vaccination is very topical, first of all for the above risk groups. The only way to prevent the disease is vaccination, it is also confirmed by the WHO,” he emphasized. Svyatoslav Protas reminded that it is possible to get a flu or ARVI jab both in advance and during the high-incidence time. Immunity starts developing from the fifth day after the vaccination and is finally formed in the third-fourth week and remains over a year.