Flu cases jump 75% in last week of year, putting pressure on hospitals and society

The influenza epidemic continues to escalate. In the last week of the year, primary care centers reported a 75% rise in incidence to 438.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which was also noticed on hospital floors with fewer admissions. That’s a 60% increase in just seven days (according to data released this Thursday by the Carlos III Health Institute, there are as many as 9.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants).

This is the highest incidence of influenza since the pandemic, which has been acting unusually in recent years due to the spread of the new coronavirus. If you look back, most years during the worst weeks, the number of cases per 100,000 residents would not exceed 300, although it did reach higher levels during the worst seasons. One after another suggests that the surge, which has already saturated many health centers and begun to put pressure on hospitals, will continue to rise within weeks.

The evolution of acute respiratory infections

Rates per 100,000 inhabitants measured by the Sentinel system in the last weeks of 2023

Some areas are particularly affected by winter viruses. The respiratory infection rate across Spain is 952.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants (a slight increase compared to the previous week, because while influenza has increased a lot, COVID-19 and other pathogens have decreased), but some communities exceed this number by much higher More: Castilla-La Mancha with more than 1,709 people, followed by the Autonomous Community of Valencia (1,501 people), Asturias (1,318 people) and Castile and Leon (1,209 people). The data is extracted from health centers known as sentinels, which are distributed proportionally across the territory and can be extrapolated through surveys to the situation across the country.

Generally speaking, it’s these communities, and those hospitals where the situation is more complex. According to a survey by the CSIF Alliance, some of these areas, such as Castilla-La Mancha, have reached saturation in plant populations, while others, such as the Valencian community, have not reached this limit, but in one Some areas had to double planting beds. There have been “difficulties” in finding reinforcements in these areas.

According to the union and the Spanish Society of Emergency Medicine (SEMES), emergency room conditions are more common in much of the country. Board member José Manuel Fandiño explained that many hospitals “are breaking records for visits.” They estimate demand for these services has increased by 20% to 50%. However, the proportion of hospitalized patients going to emergency rooms dropped by about half. At its University Hospital of A Coruña, the proportion of cases currently being treated is 8.8%, compared with the usual range of 15% to 18%. “This means people living directly with a disease can be managed at another level of care,” he said.

Although the most severe cases are among older people, the vast majority of whom require hospitalization, infection rates are highest among children. This was the case of the son of Lugo nurse Verónica Arias, who went to the Guitiriz Health Center for an itching checkup because he had eczema on his mouth and legs, according to the minor People’s pediatricians say it’s the aftermath of the flu. The illness started on December 27 and lasted for a week. “For four days he was in very, very bad condition and required medication, corticosteroids and anti-inflammatories.” The child’s symptoms were bronchospasm, congestion, coughing with lots of mucus and wheezing: “He was having a very difficult time breathing,” he said .

Two people leave a medical center in Santiago de Compostela on Thursday where the use of masks is once again mandatory.
Two people leave a medical center in Santiago de Compostela on Thursday where the use of masks is once again mandatory.Oscar Kolar

“They need to wait two days before they can fulfill your appointment request,” he said, though he clarified that there were currently no issues with medical care in emergencies. She and her son have both received flu and covid-19 vaccines, the child because of his age and her because she is a nurse. “In these days we must use masks as a preventive measure because we know that viral infections will increase. You have to wear it not only at family gatherings, in hospitals or outpatient clinics, but also in pharmacies and even in bars and supermarkets,” he claimed . Everyone in their family had the flu, including four cohabitants.

The spread of influenza has also affected pharmacies. Macarena Perez, deputy director of the School of Pharmacists of Seville, said that the peak demand has lasted for about 10 days, and the virus has also caused casualties among pharmacy staff. “For many patients, this is the first place they go, and in many cases symptomatic treatment of the typical viral course of the winter is recommended when there is no underlying pathology or referral criteria to the physician. With what I see The difference with other years is that this time the peak is higher over a shorter period of time,” he said.

extraordinary measures

Some unions and medical associations are demanding measures to avoid saturating the health system, which is expected every year due to epidemics of respiratory viruses due to their seasonality. First, they asked people not to visit health centers if flu symptoms are normal and patients are not at special risk (elderly people and people with relevant comorbidities).

José María Molero, spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Working Group of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (semFYC), clarified that “this does not in any case indicate that people will not go to the hygienist when they have a respiratory infection” Centre,” but our intention is to come when there is “a genuine clinical need for assessment by a professional.” “Saturation interferes with care for patients who may need it most, and in addition, it creates a greater risk of transmission to others in the healthcare setting,” Morello concluded.

José David Montero, a 35-year-old chef and resident of Guitiriz, was one of those who decided to stay at home. He began to contract influenza A on Thursday, the 28th, and did not feel sick until the 1st. He still had mild symptoms such as hoarseness on Thursday. He had a high fever between 39.5 and 40 degrees, muscle aches and headache. He encountered more residents of the town suffering from influenza A. “On a social level, we are not taking any of the necessary precautions to prevent this because we are living our normal lives,” he admitted.

However, for many patients, if they need time off from work, they must go to the office. semFYC estimates that about a quarter of people who seek medical attention with respiratory symptoms do so for this reason. To this end, it proposes to reinstate the possibility of issuing discharges and discharges simultaneously for a period of up to seven days, which is the time that many such procedures need to be fully restored, as has been the case during the pandemic.

The association and other primary medical societies have long called for changes to temporary disability management regulations to establish self-explanation for sickness absence, rather than sickness absence. Regular health reasons (up to 7 days).

As an extraordinary measure during these weeks of influenza epidemic, they also recommend the reinstatement of the use of mandatory masks in health centers, the distribution of hydroalcoholic gel, and the identification of specific ventilation measures for isolation spaces or waiting rooms.

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