Skip to content

The Finnish health care prepares for an extensive epidemic of influenza A (H1N1)

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 22.7.2009 10.12
Press release -

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and National Institute for Health and Welfare inform

The severity of influenza A (H1N1) disease resembles more and more the seasonal influenza, and the majority of patients recover well without requiring any medical or hospital treatment. Influenza A (H1N1) is removed from the list of generally hazardous communicable diseases. The Government will most likely decide on the amendment tomorrow.

During the past weeks, the number of cases has increased rapidly and the number is expected to increase further. Finland moves from the containment phase to the treatment phase. The containment phase aimed at stopping the importation of the disease. The focus during the treatment phase is on the prevention of the severe forms of the disease.

Patients outside the risk groups, who are experiencing only mild symptoms, do not usually need a diagnosis by a doctor or any medical treatment. They recover from the disease with approximately one week's rest at home. This applies also to travellers returning from abroad.

In contrast to the normal seasonal influenza, a larger proportion of the population is likely to contract the A (H1N1) virus. Hospital districts and health centres are making the necessary health care-related special arrangements and will inform people in their area about them.

A total of 155 cases of influenza A(H1N1) have been confirmed in Finland. Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium, among others, have already moved to the treatment phase of the influenza A (H1N1) epidemic.

Antiviral drugs are used to treat severe cases and high-risk groups

People suspecting to have contracted influenza A (H1N1) and belonging to the high-risk groups or suffering from severe symptoms should contact a health centre immediately after the symptoms appear, so that their need for medication and other treatment can be assessed.

High-risk groups, as defined by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, include pregnant women, people with certain chronic diseases as well as children aged under 3 years. The list of high-risk groups may change, when more information on the disease and the sequelae caused by it is obtained as the number of cases increases in the world.

Antiviral drugs are prescribed to the influenza A (H1N1) patients requiring hospital treatment and belonging to the high-risk groups. Patients buy the antiviral drugs from pharmacies like any other prescription medicines. As the epidemic advances, drugs in the reserve supplies will be taken into use. Maintenance and Supply Security Centre is responsible for the sufficiency of the drugs. Instructions on prescribing and delivering the drugs have already been issued to doctors and pharmacies. The instructions will be updated when necessary.

Home care is sufficient for most patients

If the clinical picture remains unchanged, antiviral drugs will no longer be administered to persons outside the risk groups who are experiencing only mild symptoms. According to the estimates by experts, there is no need to treat basically healthy patients experiencing only mild symptoms with antiviral drugs, which alleviate the symptoms and cut their duration to some extent, if the clinical picture remains unchanged. Home care is a sufficient treatment in most cases of influenza A (H1N1). When needed, painkillers and analgesics can be used to relieve the symptoms, mainly the temperature. Persons outside the risk groups should seek medical attention on the same basis as when suffering from seasonal influenza.

Traditional means slow down the spread of the disease

The best way to protect oneself from the influenza, like many other infectious diseases, is to wash hands regularly. The best way to prevent infecting others is to turn away from other people when coughing and to cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or a sleeve. If people accidentally cough in their own hands, hands should be washed immediately. When having symptoms, people should stay at home.

The vaccines arrive in batches in Finland

The delivery schedule of the vaccines depends on the production capacity of the vaccine manufacturer. It is likely that the vaccines arrive in batches in Finland over several months . More detailed national decisions on the vaccination, its practical implementation and the timetables will be made during the fall of 2009.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has issued instructions to hospital districts and health centres 

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has instructed hospital districts and health centres to prepare for the movement to the treatment phase and to the normal gradation of treatment of influenza patients. The movement to the new phase is prepared for in cooperation with the State Provincial Offices, the social welfare services and the private health care providers in each area.

For further information contact:

Merja Saarinen, Ministerial Counsellor for Health Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel.  (09) 160 74030
Pekka Järvinen, Director, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. (09) 160 73800
Olli Haikala, Senior Medical Officer, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. (09) 160 73214
Petri Ruutu, Professor, National Institute for Health and Welfare, tel. 020 610 8670

Related topics

Preparedness for an H1N1influenza epidemic  

Related links

The National Institute for Health and Welfare

Pandemic (H1N1) 2009  (WHO)

Influenza A(H1N1) (European Commission)

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, ECDC

Back to top