Corona, flu and colds are raging – Switzerland is running out of medicine

It’s the season again: colds and flus are just around the corner (picture of the symbol).Image: Shutterstock

Switzerland is full of viruses, people are coughing and sneezing everywhere. The symptoms of flu and Covid-19 can hardly be distinguished. An infectious disease specialist explains when testing still makes sense and which symptoms of Covid are no longer common. There is now a shortage of cold medicine.

Bruno Knellwolf / ch media

The ups and downs with corona numbers will continue in late autumn. This week, the numbers increased slightly by 3 percent compared to the previous week to 21,194 laboratory-confirmed Sars-CoV-2 infections. However, the number of hospitalizations with Covid is decreasing, the intensive care units are not overloaded and the death rate is stable at a low level.

But people are sneezing and coughing all over the country. The number of people infected with the flu has been increasing significantly over the past two weeks, according to the Swiss situation report for the current flu season. In large parts of Switzerland, the spread is not yet detectable according to the Sentinella reporting system, to which doctors report their flu diagnoses, but it is in two regions.

Overall, current flu activity is comparable to early seasons in pre-pandemic years. The most frequently detected viruses this week by the National Influenza Reference Center (NZI) were rhinoviruses and Sars-CoV-2.

Corona or flu?

But how do you know if you have a flu-like illness or Covid-19? “In the vast majority of cases, it is not possible to distinguish a Covid-19 infection from other respiratory viruses based on clinical symptoms,” says Stefan Kuster, head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the St. Gallen. “The symptoms overlap to a large extent and are not different. Both diseases, for example, have mild courses with only mild symptoms of a cold, »explains the infectious disease specialist.

“In the current situation, testing makes sense if it has direct consequences for the patient or the environment.”

Stefan Kuster

Individual specific symptoms such as loss of smell or taste are more likely to indicate a Covid 19 infection. However, since the Delta version the symptoms have changed. “Loss of smell is less common with Omikron than with the Delta variant, other symptoms such as fever or headache were also found less frequently in studies, and the duration of illness is shorter with Omikron,” says Kuster. On the other hand, angina is now more common among omicrons.

When the test still makes sense

People who cough and sneeze often do not know whether they should still be tested for Sars-CoV-2 infection. “In the current situation, testing makes sense if it has direct consequences for the patient or the environment. For example, if you have a severely limited immune system and the Covid 19 infection is treated with specific drugs, »says the infectious disease expert. A general practitioner can advise on this in individual cases.

Tests are also carried out in the hospital, where patients with Covid 19 infection are cared for in single rooms. In all other cases, according to Stefan Kuster: “Anyone who is sick and has a fever should stay home and get well. If you have cold symptoms, you can protect those around you by wearing a face mask with close contacts, sneezing into the crook of your arm, using disposable tissues, and washing or disinfecting your hands regularly.” According to infectious disease experts, you should avoid testing if you have cold symptoms or illness, and then going out with people if you test negative for Covid 19. This would unnecessarily expose you to other cold or flu viruses.

Almost no flu medications available

And that’s a burden. Currently, there are so many sick people that there is not enough NeoCitran in pharmacies. “It’s a nationwide problem. There is currently little or no NeoCitran available,” confirms Martina Tschan, spokeswoman for Pharmasuisse, the Swiss pharmacists’ association. According to Pharmasuisse, many cold, cough and flu medicines, as well as painkillers and antibiotics, are affected by the lack of stock. “There is currently a shortage of 768 prescription drugs in Switzerland, not including over-the-counter drugs,” explains Tschanz. (cpf)

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