BERLIN, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- The number of acute respiratory infections in Germany in the previous week reached around 9.5 million, surpassing the level of previous years' severe influenza waves, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said in its weekly report published on Thursday.
"Different viral pathogens caused the high number of acute respiratory infections," it said. Influenza viruses were the leading cause of illnesses at 51 percent, followed by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) at 15 percent and COVID-19 at 4 percent.
Compared to the peaks of previous influenza waves in Germany, the number of people with acute respiratory infection who were hospitalized was also high, the RKI said.
One of the country's largest health insurers, Barmer, already warned in late October that the number of sick days taken by employees in Germany was steadily increasing due to respiratory infections, such as influenza, pneumonia or COVID-19.
Also on Friday, U.S. and German vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they had received fast track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their mRNA-based (messenger ribonucleic acid) combination vaccine candidate for influenza and COVID-19.
The vaccine "aims to help prevent two respiratory diseases with a single injection," the companies said in a statement. Pfizer and BioNTech previously announced the start of the Phase 1 trial of their combined influenza and COVID-19 candidate vaccine in healthy adults.
The RKI expects the number of respiratory illnesses in Germany to remain high in the coming weeks because of the usual cold season and the RSV wave. This year, infections with the RS virus are causing additional illnesses and hospitalizations, in particular among young children.
The situation at children's hospitals and especially at outpatient pediatric and adolescent practices in Germany was "becoming increasingly tense with each passing day," Germany's Professional Association of Pediatricians (BVKJ) said earlier this month.