There is concern in Italy death of two Italians from H1N1 virusboth admitted to the San Bortolo hospital Vicenza. After the first 55-year-old victim on Sunday 7 January, the second death was confirmed on Monday 8, another 47-year-old man. In the case of the two victims for the so-called “swine flu”in both cases these are patients with previous pathologies, and who had not undergone anti-flu vaccination, despite the fact that the Ministry of Health recommends it in particular to subjects suffering from diseases.
There are currently another 4 patients in serious conditions in the Vicenza intensive care unit, all in danger of life, according to what transpires from the hospital: the patient considered the most serious is a woman undergoing extracorporeal circulation, a procedure which involves the sampling, the filtration and oxygenation of the blood and then reintroducing it into the body.
H1N1 flu cases in Vicenza: what we know
The head of intensive care at San Bortolo, Dr. Vinicio Danzi, expressed deep concern, speaking of a complex and challenging situation. “Personally It’s the first time I’ve seen so many critical cases of A/H1N1 arrive in intensive care” he said. And the peak has not yet arrived, as it is expected for mid-month or just after. A decidedly not rosy scenario if we consider that the emergency rooms have been full for weeks, and several hospitals have started to postpone visits, tests and surgeries, in order to manage this new seasonal emergency.
The only weapon we really have available to protect ourselves against the flu is vaccination: “The only way to defeat this viral infection is to get vaccinated, you just need to be vaccinated for the flu, a serum that also covers the swine variant.”
It remains to be understood whether or not it is relevant that the two cases both occurred in Vicenza and whether there is a correlation with the place of origin: both victims who died from the H1N1 influenza virus in fact came from the same area of Vicenza, in particular from that west of Arzignano.
Cases also in Ogliastra, Sardinia
But also in Sardinia, in Ogliastra to be precise, two patients are currently in intensive care and three others hospitalized in the medical department of the Nostra Signora della Mercede hospital in Lanusei. The conditions of the two patients are serious. One from Bari Sardo, 60 years old, and the other 45, from Tertenia, are intubated. According to what the Sardinian Union reports, the clinical picture of the latter in particular is considered rather critical.
The Ogliastra Local Health Authority for its part specifies that “in Ogliastra, at the moment, there is no alarm related to the flu: the company however maintains maximum attention to the phenomenon”.
Veneto Region: “DIncorrect definition of swine flu“
Regarding the cases in Vicenza, the Veneto region has released an official note in which he speaks of “Incorrect definition of swine flu“. This season’s flu is characterized by the circulation of the H1N1 pdm09 virus (Pandemic disease Mexico 2009): this is the influenza virus that has circulated widely in all flu seasons since 2009, clarifies the press release.
“Calling it a ‘swine flu’ virus is a media legacy that suggests a non-seasonal virus. At the moment, there is no new case of ‘swine flu’, but rather infections from the H1N1 virus, which is the basis of the ‘normal’ flu wave which is involving large portions of the population.”
Every year – the document continues – respiratory viruses cause an increase in hospitalizations and mortality during the circulation period. Data which, at present, is in line with the flu seasons of the pre-pandemic period, explains the Zaia council. “The recent WHO report confirms that mortality is comparable to that before the Covid pandemic period. In any case, surveillance through general practitioners and pediatricians and hospital surveillance remains important.”
Flu symptoms and warning signs not to be underestimated
As the Istituto Superiore di Sanità clarifies, the current A/H1N1 influenza virus is a new subtype of human influenza virus which contains genes from avian, swine and human viruses in a combination that has never been observed before, in any area of the world. New viruses are often the result of a reassortment of genes from other viruses, so-called gene exchange. This A/H1N1 virus was the result of a combination of two swine influenza viruses that contained genes of avian and human origin. There is no evidence that this replenishment occurred in Mexico, the ISS states.
THE symptoms of the flu currently circulating in Italy are in particular runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, malaise and tiredness. Other possible symptoms are physical pain, in particular muscle pain, headache, chills, fatigue, vomiting or diarrhea, “symptoms not typical of influenza but reported in some of the recent cases of swine flu virus infection” specifies the ISS.
In some cases they may arise respiratory difficulties such as shortness of breath, which represent an alarm bell. This can happen when the flu affects the lower respiratory tract and generates a pneumonia flu.
“The only truly effective measure to prevent the flu or to prevent its serious forms – also underlined by the Ogliastra Local Health Authority – is represented by influenza vaccination. Vaccination is recommended at any time, even late in the flu season. To prevent contagion it is important to observe good respiratory hygiene and regular hand washing.”
The virus can be contracted the same way you get seasonal flu. It spreads from person to person via droplets contained in the sneezes or coughs of an infected person.
Flu vaccine: who should get it and how it works
This flu strain is contained in the vaccine, available free of charge for those at risk and for all categories indicated by the ministryand in any case recommended to everyone, even if for a fee (the cost in the pharmacy is between approximately 18 and 34 euros): vaccination is therefore absolutely recommended, even for a wider audience. A single dose is generally sufficient, at the beginning of the season, approximately between mid and end of November.
The flu vaccine is recommended for all subjects from 6 months of age who have no contraindications to the vaccine. In the case of children under 9 years of age who have never previously been vaccinated against influenza, a second dose must be administered after an interval of at least 4 weeks.
The vaccines they begin to protect about 2 weeks later their administration. There immune protection in a healthy subject it lasts approximately 6-8 months.
As the Veneto Region clarifies in its note, the use of masks remains important in the case of contagion (remember that just a few days ago the extension arrived which keeps them mandatory in certain cases until 30 June 2024), and in the most serious, possible prompt therapy with antivirals, especially in subjects with risk conditions, but only after careful medical evaluation.
Bassetti: “We vaccinated little”
For Matteo Bassetti, director of infectious diseases at the San Martino hospital in Genoa, it is all the fault of poor vaccination. “The H1N1 flu is the one that has circulated most frequently in Italy this year, it is called ‘swine’ because in 2009 there was a pandemic with numerous cases and several deaths in the world” he explains to Adnkronos Salute.
“It’s a form of influenza A that we know well and every year there are deaths. Nothing new on the horizon, unfortunately we vaccinated little this year. The vaccination campaign was disastrous and these are the results, together with a very low coverage for Covid (here are the most widespread new symptoms today). We know that vaccines prevent serious forms of the flu, unfortunately when there are such virulent forms that also affect young people we are reminded of the importance of vaccines”.
The two deaths from the H1N1 flu at the Vicenza hospital “remind us of the history of influenza, which in 95% of cases it is not a serious disease with lethal consequences but there is a percentage of the population who instead risks more” he remarks to Adnkronos Salute Massimo Andreoni, scientific director of Simitthe Italian Society of Infectious and Tropical Diseases.
“We have always said i frail, the elderly and the immunosuppressed, but it can rarely be lethal even for the youngest and healthiest. Today 80% of flu cases in Italy are H1N1 and, unfortunately, we have not vaccinated well.” Fortunately there is still time to get the vaccine: “We see precisely from these news cases how crucial being immunized can be” she concludes.