Flu cases spiked 75% in the last week of the year, putting hospitals under strain | Society

The flu epidemic continues to grow. In the last week of the year, the incidence reported in primary health care centers increased by 75%, reaching 438.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which was also observed in hospital sites, where the number of hospitalizations decreased, increasing by 60% in just seven days (up to 9.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants),…

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The flu epidemic continues to grow. In the last week of the year, the incidence reported in primary health care centers increased by 75%, reaching 438.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which was also observed in hospital sites, where the number of hospitalizations decreased, increasing by 60% in just seven days (up to 9.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants), according to data published this Thursday by the Carlos III Institute of Health.

These are the highest flu rates since the pandemic, which has had an abnormal pattern in recent years due to the prevalence of Covid. Looking back, in most years, in the worst weeks it does not exceed 300 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, although in the most acute seasons it reaches higher levels. The reversal suggests the wave will continue to grow for several weeks, which has already saturated many medical centers and is beginning to overwhelm hospitals.

There are areas that especially suffer from the scourge of winter viruses. The incidence rate of respiratory infections throughout Spain is 952.9 per 100,000 inhabitants (a slight increase compared to the previous week because, although influenza has increased strongly, the number of covid and other pathogens has decreased), but there are communities that exceed this rate much higher . : Castilla-La Mancha tops 1,709, followed by the Valencian Community (1,501), Asturias (1,318) and Castile and León (1,209). This is data obtained from health centers known as sentinels, which are distributed proportionally across the area and allow the situation to be extrapolated across the country in the form of a survey.

It is in these settlements that, in general, there are also hospitals that are in a more difficult situation. According to a survey carried out by the CSIF trade union, some of them, such as Castilla-La Mancha, are reaching saturation with plants, while others, such as the Valencian Community, are not reaching this extreme, but in some countries they are having to double the beds. areas are already experiencing “difficulties” in finding reinforcements.

According to the union and the Spanish Society of Emergency Medicine (SEMES), the situation in emergency departments is more common in most of the country. José Manuel Fandinho, a member of the board of directors, explains that many hospitals are “breaking attendance records.” They estimate that demand for these services has increased by 20–50%. However, the hospitalization rate of patients presenting to the emergency department is reduced by about half. The Hospital of the University of A Coruña is now treating 8.8% of cases, compared with the usual rate of 15% to 18%. “This means that people come directly with conditions that could be treated at another level of care,” he says.

Although the most serious cases occur among older people, the vast majority of which require hospitalization, children have the highest infection rates. This is the case with the son of Veronica Arias, a nurse from Lugo, who goes to the Guitiris Health Center to have his itching checked because he has eczema in the mouth and feet, a consequence, according to the minor’s pediatrician, of the flu. an illness with which she began on December 27 and lasted a week. “He was very, very unwell for four days due to the medications, corticosteroids and anti-inflammatories.” The child’s symptoms included bronchospasm, nasal congestion, a cough with a lot of mucus and wheezing: “He had a lot of difficulty breathing,” he says.

This Thursday in Santiago de Compostela, two people leave a health center where the mandatory use of masks has been reintroduced.OSCAR CORRAL

“They waited two days for your appointment,” he says, although he clarifies that there are currently no problems with emergency medical care. She and her son are vaccinated against flu and covid-19, the child because of his age, and she because she is a nurse. “We must use masks on these dates as a precaution, knowing that there is an increase in viral infections. It should be worn not only at family gatherings, in hospitals and clinics, but also in pharmacies and even bars and supermarkets,” he asserts. Everyone in their house had the flu, four roommates.

The spread of influenza also affects pharmacies. Macarena Perez, vice-president of the Seville College of Pharmacists, says the peak in demand has been going on for about 10 days and that the virus is also causing casualties among pharmacy workers. “For many patients, they are the first place they go, and in many cases, where there are no underlying pathologies or referral criteria, symptomatic treatments for classic winter season viral processes are recommended. The difference I see with other years is that this time the peak was higher in less time,” he says.

Emergency measures

Several trade unions and medical societies are demanding that measures be taken to avoid oversaturation of the health care system, a situation that, due to its seasonality, is predicted every year by epidemics of respiratory viruses. First of all, they ask the public not to go to medical institutions if flu symptoms are normal and if the patient is not part of a special risk group (elderly people and people with concomitant diseases are sick).

José Maria Molero, representative of the working group on infectious diseases of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (semFYC), clarifies that “it is by no means stated that the population does not go to health centers if they have a respiratory infection,” but it is assumed that you will come when “there is a genuine clinical need for examination by a professional.” “Saturation interferes with care for patients who may need it most, and also creates a greater risk of infection for other people in the health care facility,” Molero concludes.

José David Montero, a 35-year-old chef and resident of Guitiris, is one of those who decided to stay home. On Thursday the 28th he fell ill with influenza A and did not feel well until the 1st. As of this Thursday, he is still experiencing mild symptoms such as a hoarse voice. He had a high temperature of 39.5 to 40 degrees, severe muscle pain and headache. He encounters a large number of city residents suffering from influenza A. “On a social level, we are not taking any necessary precautions to stop it because we live a normal life,” he admits.

However, for many patients, it is important to go to the office if they need a break from work. semFYC estimates that about a quarter of those who see a doctor with respiratory symptoms do so for this reason. For this reason, it is proposed to reinstate the ability to issue abstracts and discharges simultaneously for up to seven days, which is the period that many of these processes require to be fully restored, as was the case during the pandemic.

This and other primary medical societies have long been demanding changes to the rules for registering temporary disability in order to establish self-justification for absence from work due to illness instead of sick leave for absences due to illness. due to health reasons (up to 7 days).

As emergency measures during these weeks of the flu epidemic, they also recommend reinstating the mandatory wearing of masks in health centers, the provision of hydroalcoholic gels, the designation of separate rooms or special measures for the ventilation of waiting rooms.

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