Man met griep op de bank

The flu epidemic in the Netherlands has started. The number of people with flu (influenza) increased significantly in the past two weeks. More and more nose and throat samples taken from people with flu-like symptoms reveal the presence of an influenza virus – three times as many last week compared to the week before.

Last week, it seemed as though a flu epidemic might be starting. A clear increase in the number of influenza cases was already becoming apparent. This number continued rising rapidly last week. As a result, RIVM, Nivel and Erasmus MC have said that the seasonal flu epidemic has now started. The flu epidemic usually starts in December or January. Since the start of the ‘normal’ flu season in 2021, however, the flu virus has only been found very occasionally in the Netherlands. This infrequent occurrence is probably due to the coronavirus measures, which also prevent the flu virus from spreading. Now that the measures have been eased, people are having contact with others more often again. This also increases the risk of respiratory infections such as flu.

Different sources of information

RIVM is monitoring trends in the flu virus in various ways. Through its network of monitoring stations at GP practices, the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (Nivel) tracks how many people contact their GP with flu-like symptoms. Despite an upward trend in recent weeks, these numbers are still lower than in previous flu seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the number of people found to be infected with an influenza virus has risen sharply. To monitor the flu virus in the Netherlands, RIVM, Nivel and Erasmus MC also look at other data. This includes data from laboratories in the Netherlands. These data sources show that the number of samples in which an influenza virus was found is three times higher than the previous week. Hospitals also report seeing similar numbers of people who have flu, comparable to epidemics before the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, since November 2021, some of the samples for COVID-19 from the GGD test lanes across the country have been examined to check for influenza viruses. That form of influenza surveillance also showed an increase in the number of samples containing the flu.  Taking all this information into account, it can be concluded that the flu epidemic in the Netherlands has started. 

Flu and COVID-19

Flu and COVID-19 are both infections of the respiratory system. They are caused by different viruses. Both viruses spread through droplets that are released during coughing or sneezing. In addition, both viruses cause fever, cold symptoms and coughing, and sometimes lead to pneumonia.
The basic measures to prevent the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 from spreading are also effective in preventing the spread of the influenza virus. Washing your hands regularly, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, and distancing all help reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. Keep this in mind, especially when interacting with vulnerable groups of people. They could become seriously ill from the influenza virus.