Flu spreads to epidemic level

A virulent strain of early-season flu has struck Latvia and begun spreading to epidemic proportions this week, as the towns of Daugavpils, Jelgava, Jēkabpils and Rēzekne all posted infection rates above the threshold for common levels of the outbreak, and the Riga Maternity Hospital officially limited visiting hours to limit the risk of infection.

The number of clinically confirmed cases of flu throughout the land, including possibly three related fatalities, has prompted the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC) to warn residents to take care of themselves in the face of the epidemic.

This year cases have been registered among all age groups, but five- to fourteen-year-olds have been the worst hit.

SPKC specialist Laura Ševčenko told Latvian Radio that residents should ask their family physicians about vaccinating themselves against the flu, but otherwise make sure to keep their hands clean all day long, especially after being outside or in public places. Avoid touching one’s face, eyes, nose and mouth with dirty hands and keep premises well ventilated and humidified. Dress appropriately and avoid crowded places, not to mention those infected with the flu themselves, above all, said the health expert.

Last year the levels of flu infection never reached epidemic levels, however the 2009-2013 seasons were especially lethal ones, with 35, 29 and 11 deaths recorded each year, respectively.

During a declared flu epidemic, state budget resources will cover home visits to flu patients by family doctors registered with the National Health Service, with patients paying only €2.85 per visit.

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