Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Joe Wick­man

HEALTH cen­tres up and down the Va­len­cia re­gion have reg­is­tered a rapidly in­creas­ing amount of pa­tients suf­fer­ing from flu this week.

Of­fi­cial sources said that late last week the ill­ness was af­fect­ing 50 in 100,000 in­hab­i­tants, al­most dou­ble the 26.4 mark that had been reg­is­tered just the week be­fore.

These same sources clas­si­fied the spike as ‘nor­mal’, and ex­plained that pos­si­ble rea­sons be­hind the surge in­clude the sud­den drop in tem­per­a­tures and the fact that larger groups of peo­ple get to­gether over the fes­tive sea­son, which makes it eas­ier for the virus to spread.

The bad news is that the sit­u­a­tion is ex­pected to worsen over the next cou­ple of weeks, and a sim­i­lar mark to last year’s 300 in 100,000 max­i­mum will likely be met – thus eas­ily sur­pass­ing the 80 in 100,000 mark that of­fi­cially turns an ill­ness into an epi­demic.

Hos­pi­tals such as those in Ali­cante city have had to open wards that were closed in or­der to meet the de­mand and of­fer a bed to those who need it.

On Sun­day, Ali­cante Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal opened part of the sev­enth floor for the cause, and there were five pa­tients – all with flu – ad­mit­ted there the next day, with 25 more hos­pi­tal beds ready and wait­ing if needed. Mean­while, Sant Joan Hos­pi­tal made the third-floor in­stal­la­tions avail­able af­ter their emer­gency room was hav- ing trou­ble cop­ing with the in­flux of pa­tients with cold-re­lated symp­toms, with the staff hav­ing to tend to 300 pa­tients over the week­end.

Nearby towns are hav­ing sim­i­lar dif­fi­cul­ties, with Elche’s Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal get­ting very close to its max­i­mum ca­pac­ity, and Elda’s Hos­pi­tal Gen­eral Univer­si­tario on Mon­day reg­is­ter­ing a higher in­flux of pa­tients than in the pre­vi­ous 12 months and fill­ing all 400 avail­able beds.

More med­i­cal per­son­nel was called in to al­le­vi­ate the sit­u­a­tion in Elda, and they will re- main on standby there and in other towns, ready to be called upon if the sit­u­a­tion wors­ens. One-week wait­ing list for GPs Unions in Ali­cante were re­port­ing wait­ing lists of up to one week for a GP ap­point­ment in Ali­cante city health cen­tres due to the in­crease in flu cases.

The ex­tra time re­quired for new cases has also seen de­lays in con­sul­ta­tions.

This week, pa­tients were com­plain­ing af­ter hav­ing to wait up to one hour af­ter their sched­uled ap­point­ment time to see their doc­tor.

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