ECDC publishes seasonal influenza epidemic risk assessment

The ECDC published its risk assessment of the 2012/2013 seasonal influenza epidemics in Europe this week.

According to the report, influenza epidemics began earlier this season than in previous seasons, with western Europe and Scandinavia hit first. Spain and Portugal, however, have been less affected.

Central and eastern Europe have both been advised to continue preparing for a smiler pattern of transmission and intensity to those seen in the western Europe and Scandinavian countries.

Overall this year, the report said, there is no clear dominance of any particular influenza virus strain.

"Influenza has to be taken seriously - each year, around 10 percent of the population is infected and influenza-related complications cause hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations across Europe," ECDC Director Marc Sprenger said. "ECDC takes this very seriously which is why we work closely with our partners and countries across Europe to gather and share information as quickly as possible. ECDC is thankful to its partners such as WHO Regional Office for Europe and European countries that gather and share information as quickly as possible throughout influenza season. This allows us all to recognize influenza patterns early which gives countries involved the best opportunity to plan resources and hopefully reduce the burden of the disease."

The ECDC annual risk assessment, first instituted in the 2010/2011 season, gives an early description of the influenza season in countries that are affected earliest while providing guidance and information to countries that will be affected as influenza makes its way across the continent.

The report also describes specifics of the seasons, including areas where public health or clinical actions are envisaged. The report also highlights areas of uncertain where further work is required.