Flu epidemic set to hit hard, says virologist

A virologist from the National Health Institute is forecasting that a flu epidemic may be at its worst within the next two or three weeks and has reminded the population, especially the elderly, there is still time to get vaccinated.

Raquel Guiomar, head of the National Laboratory for Influenza, told the newspaper Expresso that Portugal will witness a peak in influenza cases, with the largest number of sick people being recorded by the end of January.

“The incidence rate has been below the base line we estimated for the epidemic. However, in the next one to two weeks it will probably increase, and we’ll enter the epidemic phase,” she said.

Raquel Guiomar gave a reassurance that none of the three current flu strains (the AH1, AH3 and the Type B) possess aggressive characteristics that cannot be fought by vaccination.

As reported in last week’s edition, Francisco George, the General Director for Health, had warned people to get vaccinated in readiness for a possible flu epidemic in Portugal. “In the first week of January, four cases of influenza were confirmed at the National Health Institute Doutor Ricardo Jorge (INSA). At the moment, two people are hospitalised and one is in the intensive care unit. This may indicate the onset of flu epidemic activity in Portugal, similar to what is happening in other countries in the northern hemisphere, “ he added.

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