The post-Christmas flu peak is already putting pressure on emergency rooms

The post-Christmas flu peak is already putting pressure on emergency rooms

Last week's health data indicates that a rise in respiratory infections, especially influenza, caused health care activity to increase by 5.3% and 11.4% compared to the past 30 days, i.e. “normal” levels for these winter dates. Viruses, as the government highlighted on Wednesday.

But this week, just after Christmas Eve, increases in attendance are being recorded in higher hospitals, linked to the increase in celebrations that took place last weekend and continued at Christmas and St. Esteve, and with the closure of health centers during general working hours. Holidays. In the absence of official data, the Catalan Association of Urgent Medicine estimates that emergency assistance in hospitals has increased by between 15% and 30% depending on the type of hospital. For example, in the service run by Puig, the increase is 33%.

“This is a much higher care pressure than in other years on these dates, which is associated with a peak influenza epidemic that is higher than last year and higher than expected, and is probably associated with a very significant increase in infections among children,” he explains. .

Infants and adolescents

In fact, health data for the days between December 18 and 24 already indicate this upward curve: cases of respiratory infections rose from 67,521 the week before to 71,647 people infected in the days leading up to Christmas Eve. For children, 42% of tests performed are infected with influenza. Injuries doubled in this period from 0 to 4 years and more than doubled between 5 and 14 years.

Conversely, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in minors is declining due to the good outcome of the first childhood immunization campaign. Coronavirus is also recording a decline in infection rates and hospitalizations in Catalonia. However, there has been a “higher than expected increase” in pneumonia cases diagnosed.

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So the combination of viruses causing high activity in hospital emergency rooms translates into increased waits for non-critically ill patients. The average wait, according to the Catalan Society of Emergency Medicine, has risen from about one hour to between two and three hours for low-complexity patients.

Dr. Puig also notes a “lack of space” in boxes and waiting rooms, which these days seem more crowded than usual. Despite this, Health issued a message of “calm”, in a statement in which the Catalan government confirmed, on Wednesday, that the Catalan health system “has the assistance equipment prepared to respond to the increasing spread of respiratory viruses.”

Staff error

However, as Jordi Mestres, member of the Catalan Association of Family and Community Medicine (CAMFiC) stated, winter after winter “emergencies are saturated and staff reinforcement does not equate to a full staff”, given there is cash for the holidays.

In the case of health centres, the pressure of care between 18 and 24 years of age increased by 5%. After several days of closure due to Christmas celebrations, there was “heavy traffic” on Wednesday, as there usually is after every bridge. But expectations indicate that the matter will “go further” in the coming days due to lower temperatures and increased interactions in the remainder of Christmas.

In this case, it is difficult to predict when influenza will reach its peak, and it is not possible at the present time to determine the reason for the influx of cases. One reason, “but certainly not the only factor,” according to Dr. Puig, is that influenza vaccination coverage is lower than last year.

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