Staff reporter CASES of flu in the Balearics will triple in the coming weeks, warned the Balearic health service (Ib-Salut) yesterday. The service confirmed that in the week 2-8 November, 67 cases for every 100'000 inhabitants in the region were recorded. It estimates that figures will reach 189 cases for every 100'000 inhabitants, which is the current average throughout Spain. Sources at Ib-Salut said that flu usually appears later in the day in the Balearics than on the Peninsula but that the figures always end up reflecting similar levels. According to predictions, the highest incidence in the Islands will come about at the end of December or at the beginning of January. The significant increase in the incidence of flu this year, 20 times greater than figures recorded for the same period in 2002, has resulted in health authorities declaring Spain as an area of high incidence together with other countries including Ireland, the United Kingdom and Norway. In the Balearics, information on the spread of the flu is controlled through the Centinela alert network, made up of 25 general practitioners and 7 paediatricians, who offer detailed information on the cases that have been recorded to date, to the hospital of Son Dureta in Palma on a weekly basis. The high incidence of flu this year, is due, according to public health sources, to the appearance of a particularly aggressive strain of virus from the Orient. The virus, nick-named Flu Yang, is more scientifically termed H3N2, type A. It is currently doing the rounds in several Eastern European countries. Meanwhile, Balearic Minister for Health, Ana Pastor, also concurred with these predictions yesterday. She confirmed that the aggressive Oriental virus strain, Flu Yang. and health conditions related to it, are the cause of jamming of emergency services at many Spanish hospitals. According to the Spanish Society of Emergency Medical Treatment (SEMES), this is largely due to poor management. The hallmarks being left by this year's flu strain contrast significantly with that of last year which was categorised as type B. It was much less aggressive than type A which characterises this year's virus. Within the space of only one week, recorded cases have shot up from 117 to 189 for every 100'000 inhabitants. Pastor gave assurances that the Health Ministry is responding swiftly and appropriately to the situation. This year, cases referred to the emergency units of hospitals throughout Spain have increased significantly. José Luis Casado, spokesman for SEMES, stated that close to 100 percent operational levels were being reported from hospital emergency units, not only due to the high incidence of flu but other health conditions associated with the onset of winter. This expert believes that the situation has emerged so critically, largely due to poor planning on the part of hospital administration, as well as to insufficient investment in beds and staff. Flu attacks us every year, and it therefore shouldn't come as a surprise to us criticised Casado. The spokesman warned that jamming of hospital emergency units happens when patients diagnosed in these units, for example, with pneumonia, can't be taken in to the hospital for treatment on an ongoing basis because of shortage of beds. Casado also warned that part of this blockage happens because people turn up at emergency units suffering from much less serious conditions, such as pharyngitis and tonsillitis which could be dealt with through their local doctor's surgery.
New flu epidemic could cripple hospitals
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