Respiratory tract, sexually transmitted infections rise in 2022

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The year 2022 was an exceptional year for respiratory tract infections, said the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in a press release on Monday.

In addition to coronavirus infections, there were numerous occurrences of other respiratory tract infections.

During the 2021-2022 flu season, there were two separate waves of the influenza A epidemic.

The second wave began in April 2022 and continued until June, Similarly, the 2022-2023 season's epidemic began in October 2022, which was earlier than normal.

The peak of the flu season was reached as early as December 2022, which was also exceptionally early.

In 2022, there were also two peaks of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) epidemic, and they occurred at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 and at the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023. Usually, widespread RSV epidemics in Finland occur every other winter.

“Restrictions related to the coronavirus have affected the prevalence of respiratory tract infections in recent years. During the pandemic, the number of respiratory tract infections diagnosed was low, particularly in the period between spring 2020 and summer 2021. Infections began to spread again once the coronavirus restrictions were lifted in spring 2022 and people resumed their normal, everyday lives. Due to the restrictions, infections have also occurred outside the normal infection season, or an epidemic may have started earlier than usual,” said THL’s Senior Specialist Maija Toropainen.

In addition to viral infections, the number of certain bacterial infections that spread through inhalation also increased last year, nearly reaching pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

For example, the number Streptococcus pneumoniae findings in blood or cerebrospinal fluid increased by almost three hundred when compared to 2021. The number of diagnosed severe bacterial infections caused by Haemophilus influenzae was as high as before the coronavirus pandemic.

On the other hand, the number of pertussis and Chlamydia pneumoniae cases remained low compared to years preceding the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of sexually transmitted diseases has increased in recent years. Nearly 16 900 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2022, which is approximately 100 more than in 2021 and almost 600 more than in 2020. In reality, the number of chlamydia infections is even higher, because the infection can also be asymptomatic, and not all infected people will get tested. As in previous years, cases were more prevalent among women and young adults.

The number of gonorrhea infections diagnosed last year – 960 new cases – was also exceptionally high. This is 450 more cases than in 2021. The majority of the infections were diagnosed among men and in the 25 to 29 age group. However, cases were also diagnosed among older demographics.

“Sexually transmitted diseases are most often transmitted through unprotected sex. They can be avoided by using a condom and a dental dam. You should get tested if you have had unprotected sex or if the condom broke. Also, you should always get tested if you are experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease. In public healthcare, STD testing is free of charge for the patient,” said Tuula Hannila-Handelberg, THL’s Chief Physician.

A widespread mpox epidemic, mainly related to sex between men, also began in Europe in spring 2022. However, the epidemic receded during the autumn and in winter. The number of cases in Finland ultimately remained low: 42 infections in total were diagnosed between May and October.

The prevalence of communicable diseases is monitored through the Finnish National Infectious Diseases Register

  •  Respiratory tract
  •  STD
  •  Infections
  •  Rise


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