Flu season starts early in Austria

The flu season has hit Austria unusually early this winter - meaning thousands of people will be confined to their beds over the Christmas weekend.

Flu season starts early in Austria
Hot lemon with honey can help alleviate symptoms. Photo: J.H./Flickr

The Department of Virology at the Medical University of Vienna announced earlier this week that there has been a significant increase in the number of people with influenza viruses and a clear increase in new cases of viral influenza.

The capital, Vienna, has been worst hit, with around 9,000 people registering sick with their doctors and workplaces last week. The actual number is probably higher as many people will not have visited or called their GP.

The costs of antiviral medications that can alleviate the symptoms of flu and shorten the duration of the illness are being covered by health insurance companies.

This year the influenza virus subtype A(H3N2) is dominant. It’s one of the strains which is covered by the flu vaccine. The flu vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza, and antiviral drugs are the second line of defence to treat the flu if you do get sick. Experts expect a significant increase in the number of people falling ill with the flu in the next few weeks.

Influenza has also erupted in other parts of Europe, including Portugal, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Croatia. 

Regular hand washing with soap and water is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of viral infections, as well as avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and staying at home and resting when you yourself are sick. Covering your mouth when you cough and using a tissue when you sneeze also helps prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses.

For most healthy people, influenza will go away in five to seven days. The worst symptoms usually last three to four days.

Consider seeing your GP if you’re at higher risk of becoming more seriously ill, including if you are 65 or over, pregnant, have a lung, heart, kidney, liver or neurological disease, diabetes or a weakened immune system.

If you’re otherwise healthy you can look after yourself by staying at home, resting, keeping warm and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen can reduce a fever and relieve aches and pains.  


For members


How do I get a European Health Insurance Card in Austria?

An European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides EU residents with access to public healthcare across the bloc. Here’s what you need to know about getting an EHIC in Austria.

How do I get a European Health Insurance Card in Austria?

A big advantage of living in Europe is the ability to travel to so many different countries.

But sometimes accidents or illness can happen while on holiday or a work trip, which can mean an unplanned visit to a doctor.

READ ALSO: Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Thankfully, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) provides some protection against expensive medical bills in the form of reciprocal healthcare. 

Here’s what you need to know about the EHIC and how to get the card in Austria.

What is an EHIC?

An EHIC is a form of medical insurance cover and replaces the international health insurance voucher (form E111). It is issued free of charge and allows holders to access state-provided medical care while temporarily in another EU country. 

It works on a reciprocal basis through a country’s social security system and care is provided at the same cost as those insured in the country (which means it can be free, in some cases).

This means that if you have an e-card and are insured with one of the public health insurances in Austria, such as ÖGK, for example, you are entitled to the EHIC and to access public health services (to a certain extent) in other countries.

FOR MEMBERS: What is Austria’s e-card and what do you need to know about it?

The EHIC is valid in all 27 EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the UK.

However, the EHIC is not an alternative to comprehensive travel insurance as it doesn’t cover any private healthcare costs, a flight home or lost/stolen property.

Why do I need an EHIC in Austria?

The main advantage of having an EHIC is if you need medical treatment while briefly travelling in another country.

While the coverage is limited to state-provided healthcare, it does mean you will be treated by a doctor and not liable to pay non-resident medical fees.

READ NEXT: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

Austria’s e-card – the national insurance card – is needed for almost all medical procedures. On the back, it contains the EHIC Ecard image: Wikicommons

How do I get an EHIC?

EHICs are issued by the national health country provider of the country where you live. This could be, for example, the ÖGK or SVA, depending on which provider you use in Austria.

In Austria, every e-card (the health insurance card that is used to visit a doctor) already contains an EHIC on the reverse of the card, so there is no need to apply for it separately. 

However, if the data fields on the EHIC on the back of your e-card contains stars (***) instead of personal information such as name and date of birth, further documentation is required to access healthcare in another EU country.

In this case, you need to contact your social security provider in Austria to receive a replacement card before you travel.

The EHIC is only valid on the condition that you are insured or co-insured in Austria.

Useful words 

Social insurance – Sozialversicherung

Travel insurance – Reiseversicherung

Healthcare – Gesundheitspflege

Useful links

European Commission

Austrian social insurance