The flu epidemic is continuously increasing. In the last week of the year, incidence reported by primary care centers increased by 75%, reaching 438.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which is also being seen on hospital floors, where admissions have declined. An increase of 60% in just seven days (up to 9.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to data published this Thursday by the Carlos III Health Institute).
This is the highest rate of flu since the pandemic, which has had unusual behavior in recent years due to the dominance of Covid. If you look back, in the worst weeks in most years it does not exceed 300 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, although in the most severe seasons it reaches higher levels. The succession of parties suggests that the wave will continue to surge for some weeks, already leading to saturation in many health centers and putting pressure on hospitals.
development of acute respiratory infection
Rates per 100,000 inhabitants measured from sentinel systems in the final weeks of 2023
There are areas that are particularly suffering from the winter virus crisis. The rate of respiratory infections throughout Spain is 952.9 per 100,000 inhabitants (a slight increase compared to last week, as flu has increased greatly, Covid and other pathogens have decreased), but there are communities that exceed this figure very much. Has more: Castilla-La Mancha exceeds 1,709, followed by the Valencian Community (1,501), Asturias (1,318), and Castilla y León (1,209). These are data extracted from health centers known as sentinels, which are distributed proportionally throughout the region and allow the situation to be extrapolated to the entire country in the form of a survey.
These are generally the communities whose hospitals are in more complex situations. According to a survey by the CSIF union, some of them, such as Castilla-La Mancha, are reaching saturation in plants, while others, such as the Valencian Community, do not reach that extreme, but are having to plant double beds in some areas. Already having “difficulties” in finding reinforcements.
According to this association and the Spanish Society of Emergency Medicine (SEMES), emergency room conditions are more widespread in most parts of the country. José Manuel Fandino, of the board of directors, points out that in many hospitals “they are breaking attendance records.” He estimates that demand for these services has increased between 20% and 50%. However, the percentage of patients going to the emergency room and being hospitalized has nearly halved. Its hospital, the University of A Coruña, now treats 8.8% of cases, compared to 15% to 18% normally. “This means that people come straight in with pathologies that can be managed at another level of care,” he says.
Although the most severe cases occur in the elderly population, the majority of whom require hospitalization, children have the highest infection rates. This is the case of the son of Veronica Arias, a nurse in Lugo, who goes to the Gutierrez Health Center to be examined for scabies because he has eczema in the mouth and feet, which, according to the minor’s pediatrician, is the result of flu. An illness which began on 27 December and lasted for a week. “He was in very bad condition for four days due to the medications, corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory drugs.” The symptoms the child experienced were bronchospasm, congestion, a cough with a lot of mucus and wheezing: “It was very difficult for him to breathe,” he says.
“They had to wait two days to attend to your appointment request,” he says, though he clarifies that there is no problem with medical care at the moment in case of an emergency. She and her son have been vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19, the son because of his age and her because she is a nurse. “On these dates we must use masks as a precaution, knowing that there has been an increase in viral infections. You have to wear it not only at family gatherings and in hospitals or outpatient clinics, but also in pharmacies and even in bars and supermarkets,” he claims. Everyone in his house has got flu, there are four roommates.
This expansion of the flu is also affecting pharmacies. Macarena Pérez, vice president of the Seville College of Pharmacists, says the peak in demand has been going on for about 10 days and the virus is also causing casualties among pharmacy workers. “For many patients, they are the first place they go and on many occasions, when the doctor has no underlying pathology or referral criteria, symptomatic treatment is recommended for the classic viral processes of the winter season . The difference I see compared to other years is that this time the peak has been higher in a shorter period of time,” he says.
Many unions and medical societies are requesting measures to avoid saturation of the health system, a situation that, being seasonal, is likely to occur every year with respiratory virus epidemics. First, they ask the population not to go to health centers if flu symptoms are normal and if the patient is not at special risk (suffered by elderly people and those with related co-morbidities).
José María Molero, spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Working Group of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (semFYC), clarifies that “in no case is it indicated that the population does not go to health centers when they have respiratory infections”, but The intention is that you come when “there is a genuine clinical need to be assessed by a professional.” Molero concluded, “Saturation interferes with the care of patients who may need it most, and in addition, it creates a greater risk of infection for the rest of the people present in the medical facility.”
José David Monteiro, a 35-year-old chef and resident of Guitiérez, is also one of those who have decided to stay at home. On Thursday the 28th he came down with influenza A and continued to feel unwell until the 1st. This Thursday he still has mild symptoms such as a hoarse voice. He had high fever between 39.5 to 40 degrees, severe muscle pain and headache. He meets more city residents suffering from influenza A. “At the societal level we are not taking any necessary precautions to prevent it because we live a normal life,” he admits.
However, for many patients, going to the office is necessary if they need time off from work. semFYC estimates that about a quarter of people who go to the doctor with respiratory symptoms do so for this reason. For this reason, it proposes to recover the possibility of discharging and continuing the discharge at the same time for up to seven days, which is the period that many of these processes require to recover completely, as It happened during the pandemic.
It and the rest of the primary medical societies have long been demanding amendments to the rules for the management of temporary disability to establish self-justification for absence from work due to illness rather than sick leave. Short-term health reasons (up to 7 days).
As extraordinary measures for these weeks of the flu pandemic, they are also recommending the mandatory use of masks in health centers, the distribution of hydroalcoholic gels, the determination of separation spaces or the fixing of specific ventilation measures for waiting rooms.
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(TagstoTranslate)Coronavirus(T)Coronavirus COVID-19(T)Respiratory diseases(T)Pneumonia(T)Infectious diseases(T)Health care(T)Society(T)Primary care(T)Emergencies(T)Flu( t)Influenza A