What are the most common fatal diseases

The worst infectious diseases

STOCKHOLM. Influenza causes the highest burden of disease among infections in Europe, report researchers led by Alessandro Cassini from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

For a ranking of 31 selected infectious diseases, the team determined the so-called DALYs ("disease-adjusted life years").

This measure is used to summarize the years of life lost due to premature death and the years of sickness or disability for the respective infections (Eurosurveillance 2018; online April 19).

The researchers relied on reporting data from the years 2009 to 2013 from the EU countries as well as from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein (EEA countries).

Seniors over 65 lost most of their years

Result: In the five years, the loss caused by the 31 infectious diseases in the countries totaled 1.4 million DALYs. A good three quarters of these occurred in the acute phases of the disease.

There was a loss of 273 DALYs per 100,000 inhabitants and year, of which around 196 were lost through death and 76 through illness. Seniors aged 65 and over lost most years due to the infections (24 percent of all DALYS), followed by children under five (11 percent).

The highest burden of disease was caused by influenza, which accounts for almost 30 percent of all DALYs identified in Europe. The lion's share here is made up of the years of life lost through death.

This also applies to tuberculosis in second place with around 20 percent of the DALYs. The situation is different for HIV infections in third place (18 percent): those affected do not lose as much life as a result of antiviral therapies, but their lives are impaired for many years by the chronic disease.

Invasive pneumococcal diseases follow in fourth place (11 percent). Other vaccine-preventable diseases can be found in seventh place (hepatitis B, 2.9 percent), nine (meningococcal infections, 1.7 percent) and twelve (pertussis, 1.2 percent).

Measles is only in twenty (0.2 percent). Here, however, the researchers point out the high fluctuation in the number of illnesses.

Taken alone, for example, a measles outbreak in Bulgaria with almost 22,000 affected people in 2010 would have catapulted the disease into fourth place in the ranking, just behind HIV.

Action plan for seasonal influenza vaccination called for

The results support an action plan for seasonal influenza vaccination to better meet vaccination goals for the elderly, chronically ill, pregnant women and people in the medical profession, the researchers point out. Incidentally, such a plan was recommended by the European Council in 2015.

The numbers can also be a reason to rethink vaccination strategies against invasive pneumococcal infections.

According to an ECDC study, most of the serotypes circulating in Europe are covered by the modern 13-valent conjugate vaccine.

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