While North America and parts of Western Europe enjoyed an unusually mild 2015-16 flu season, the same cannot be said for Russia and large swaths of Eastern Europe, which reported unusually high influenza morbidity and mortality for five weeks starting in early January.
In early February, Rospotrebnadzor - the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing - described the epidemic as `still rising', and they reported 11,470 schools, 2,298 kindergartens, 578 colleges,72 universities completely closed due to the epidemic.
The Russian media was filled with stories of a `mutated' virus, which public health officials were quick to deny were behind the increased severity, stating:
The genomes examined to date strains indeed several mutations have been identified, but they are not associated with high pathogenicity, and are probably the result of conventional genetic drift.
Although some of the reports coming out of Russia were confused and incomplete (see Updating Russia's Flu Outbreak) they were concerning enough that on February 8th we saw the release of an ECDC Risk Assessment : Reports Of Severe A(H1N1)pdm09 In Europe, which warned:
There are strong indications from some EU/EEA countries that the A(H1N1)pdm09 virus is responsible for the hospitalisation of a large number of severe cases. This includes hospitalisations for severe outcomes for both risk groups and otherwise healthy young adults. A similar pattern of severity is likely to be observed in other countries as the season progresses.
Despite the ECDC warning, and a HAN advisory for severe flu expected in the United States, Western Europe and North America managed to avoid a severe flu season.
Hoping to avoid another crippling influenza epidemic, this year Russian public health officials began a highly publicized flu vaccination drive in Mid-August, with almost-daily reminders appearing in the Russian press.
For the very first time - starting September 5th, and running through November 1st - free flu vaccines will be offered at Moscow Metro stations, in an an ambitious attempt to vaccinate 5 million Muscovites.
Muscovites will be free to make the flu shot in subway stations
MOSCOW, Aug. 22 -. RIA Novosti Capital Federal Service in conjunction with the Department of Health in Moscow and the Moscow Metro for the first time to hold a campaign of vaccination against influenza subway passengers, the press service of Rospotrebnadzor.
"Vaccination will be carried out in mobile vaccination points at Moscow metro stations The event is designed, primarily, to the employees working Muscovites.", - Said in a statement.
The mobile units of the capital residents will be able to apply from 5 September to 1 November from 8.00 to 20.00. In "Grippol plus" will be used as a vaccine.
Before citizens will be vaccinated, the doctor will examine each. All vaccinated against influenza will be issued a certificate prescribed form. In order to obtain this certificate, residents of the capital have to be in possession of an identity document, and the policy of obligatory medical insurance.
Vaccination is free.
List of metro stations, where they will be vaccinated, will be placed on the websites of Rospotrebnadzor in Moscow control of the capital city of Moscow Health Department and the Moscow subway and on the electronic scoreboard in the subway cars.
Now, according to the release, the situation on the incidence of influenza and SARS in Moscow is stable. Since August 25, in the capital will start vaccination campaign against influenza. During vaccination plan to inoculate more than 5 million people, which is 700 thousand more than the previous season.
While last year's flu season tells us very little about how the next flu season will play out, given last year's bad experience, the Russian government seems anxious to blunt this year's impact as much as they can.