NEWS

Hospitals fill up with flu patients as virus takes toll

PENNY BOULOUTZA

TAGS: Health

With mortalities from the flu reportedly so far exceeding 40 in Greece since October, hundreds of people with symptoms of the H1N1 virus are reportedly arriving at state hospitals which are struggling to prevent its spread among medical staff.

“The last time the Georgios Gennimatas Hospital was on duty, half of Athens turned up,” the president of the union of Athens and Piraeus hospital doctors, Matina Pagoni, told Kathimerini.

“People are panicking and come in with the slightest of symptoms,” she said, adding that many people are forced to wait for hours outside hospital emergency units. “If they don’t have the flu, they are at risk of contracting it. If they do have it, they may give to other patients,” Pagoni explained.

She advises that the best thing people that develop symptoms can do is stay at home and contact their family doctor, who will decide if they should visit a hospital.

Amid the increased demand for vaccines, the National Organization for Medicines (EOF) has ordered an additional 50,000 flu shots, which, Kathimerini understands, are expected to arrive this week.

Health experts say that it is never too late for people to get vaccinated as the flu virus is expected to remain active until the end of March.

A further concern is an expected new wave of cold weather, which is conducive to the virus’s spread, according to Sotirios Tsiodras, associate professor of internal medicine and infectious diseases at Athens University’s medical school.

Meanwhile, Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis was in the eye of the storm again on Monday after downplaying the threat of the virus.

“The majority of cases involve the H1N1 virus strand, which is stronger than the mild one last year. But let’s not get crazy, it not as if it’s a disaster,” Polakis told Kontra TV, drawing the ire of centrist Movement for Change leader Fofi Genimmata and To Potami chief Stavros Theodorakis for allegedly downplaying the loss of life.

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