April 18, 2023 12:55
Seasonal flu cases and other respiratory infections are surging after the coronavirus mask mandate was lifted and Koreans began to mingle again.
According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Monday, 15.2 suspected flu infections were reported for every 1,000 outpatients in the first week of April, three times the seasonal flu epidemic threshold of 4.9.
That was still a lot lower than before the COVID pandemic broke out, when the number stood at 42.1 per 1,000 outpatients in April 2019, but higher than in the third week of March (11.7).
The number of patients with respiratory infections in hospital also stood at 2,122 in late March, about 2.2 times the figure during the first week of March (973).
COVID restrictions also reduced flu and colds as people were forced to stay out of each other's way and mask up in public.
Like coronavirus, the flu virus spreads through respiratory droplets. It can live for five minutes on a patient's hands and for eight to 12 hours on clothes or waste paper. Doctors advise avoiding crowded places and washing your hands and brushing your teeth when you get home.
Many patients are children and adolescents. According to the KDCA, suspected flu cases per 1,000 outpatients stood at 19 for children aged one to six, 25.8 for those aged seven-12, and 23.9 for those aged 13-18, compared to 7.6 for those aged 50-64 and 4.3 for the over-65s.
Free flu shots offer protection against the virus for about six months, so people who got a flu vaccine last winter do not have to get another this spring.
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