Man snuit neus van zijn kind

More and more people are coughing and sneezing, although it is not an epidemic at this point. The season in which respiratory infections circulate in the Netherlands has now started. There are various viruses that can cause respiratory infections. Examples include RSV, flu (influenza) and various coronaviruses, as well as many cases caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. A few simple recommendations can help limit the spread of respiratory infections and protect people who could become very ill.

A respiratory infection can range from mild cold symptoms to serious pneumonia. The most common symptoms of a respiratory infection are: coughing, sneezing, sore throat and nasal cold. This is sometimes accompanied by fever, muscle aches, headache or fatigue.

Some people are more at risk

If you have a respiratory infection, you can infect others around you. Some people may become seriously ill. For example, RSV can be dangerous in very young children. Viruses like SARS-CoV-2 and flu cause an additional risk of serious respiratory infection for older people and for people who have chronic illnesses or severely impaired immunity. 

Limiting the spread of respiratory infections

If you develop symptoms that could indicate a respiratory infection, follow the recommendations below. By doing so, you can help prevent respiratory viruses from spreading. You will also protect people who are more at risk if they get a respiratory infection.

What to do if you have symptoms

You cannot completely avoid getting a respiratory infection. Still, these general recommendations will help you reduce the risk of passing the virus to others: 

  • Are you ill? Stay home. 
  • Do you have mild symptoms? Work from home if you can. Consult your employer if necessary.
  • Keep your distance from others. 
  • Avoid contact with people who could become seriously ill from a respiratory infection. 
  • Impossible to avoid contact (for example because you provide informal care)? Wear a face mask that covers the mouth and nose. 

Good hygiene helps to limit the spread of infections and can help keep you from getting infected. Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water, and ventilate indoor spaces.

Wider range of different viruses last year

In the first years of the COVID-19 epidemic, there was a decrease 
in reported respiratory infections due to other causes than SARS-CoV-2. In the 2022/2023 winter season, the number of other respiratory infections was back to about the same level as before the COVID-19 epidemic. Some were even higher than before. This is shown in the overview of patients with flu and other respiratory infections published annually by RIVM. 

In winter 2022/2023, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was circulating. People were less likely to become seriously ill from Omicron, compared to the variants before that. As a result, fewer people were admitted to hospital. More people did go to their GP with flu-like symptoms last winter than in the winter before that, but still fewer than before the COVID-19 epidemic. The number of reported RSV infections was higher than in previous years.