Hungarian disease expert urges people to get flu shot or face increased risk of death from coronavirus

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With infection rates hovering at or around record levels both in Hungary and in many neighboring countries, János Szlávik, one of the country’s top infectious disease experts, urged Hungarians to take the nationally available influenza vaccine as soon as possible, warning that international experience indicates that being infected by both viruses at the same time doubles the mortality rate.

“The number of infections is rising across Europe, we must be ready to have numbers high as in the Czech Republic and Romania in Hungary as well,” Szlávik said on national television channel M1 on Sunday. Szlávik is the chief infectologist at the South Pest Hospital — the main coronavirus treatment facility in Hungary.

Szlávik also said that clinical trials of the Remdesivir broad-spectrum anti-viral medication — made by U.S. biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences — will begin on Monday at his hospital. Hungarian drugs manufacturer Richter announced on Friday that it has manufactured clinical trial doses for the treatment of some 250 patients. One day earlier, on Oct. 8, Gilead Sciences and the European Commission announced a joint procurement framework contract in which Gilead agreed to provide up to 500,000 remdesivir treatment courses over the next six months to 37 European countries.

Szlávik said that his hospital was currently treating 180 coronavirus patients, 32 of whom were on respirators, with both numbers “high compared with earlier levels”.

In a video message posted on Facebook after a meeting with the coronavirus task forces of the country, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that “numbers have been rising in the past two months, and we expect this to continue”, adding that hospital capacities will be sufficient until at least the end of the month.

He also said that in order to balance the workload of medical personnel, so far 106 doctors and 170 nurses have be transferred to institutions with higher case numbers.

According to the latest official data, Hungary currently has 26,832 active coronavirus cases, with 21,491 people in mandatory home quarantine and a causality count of 968.

Title image: János Szlávik, the chief infectologist at the South Pest Hospital. (Magyar Hírlap/Tamás Purger)

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