Why health experts in Norway are more worried about flu than new Covid-19 variants
Health experts in Norway have said that they are concerned about the spread of influenza this autumn and winter.
The experts say they are more apprehensive about the upcoming flu season this year than Covid variants, warning that the country could see more deaths and patients hospitalised than in normal years.
"We are probably more worried about the possible return of the flu than about any new coronavirus variants now through autumn and winter. The vaccines against Covid-19 seem to protect very broadly against the variants we are currently aware of," Karoline Bragstad, a virologist at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), told public broadcaster NRK.
This year's flu season has got health experts bracing themselves because strict infection control measures last winter aimed at curbing the spread of Covid had the knock-on effect of dramatically reducing influenza cases in Norway.
And while on the surface, this may seem like good news, overall, it means that immunity in the population is much lower than in regular flu seasons.
In a typical season, it's estimated that around 900 people in Norway die and 5,000 are hospitalised because of seasonal flu, but this year experts fear the number could be much higher.
"If we get a strong spread of flu this winter, then we fear that it may become more serious than we are otherwise used to," Bragstad explained.
Espen Nakstad, assistant director of health at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, has also raised concerns over the upcoming flu season and said that the season's severity would depend on people staying at home when they are sick.
"The flu season will depend, among other things, on how good we are at staying home when we are sick. But, at the same time, we will also be affected by other countries in Europe and how good they are at the same thing, "he told NRK.
This year the NIPH has ordered more than 1.8 million flu jabs which will arrive in Norway in September and October. From October, municipalities will begin inviting people to flu vaccinations.