27th December 2017, 19:48
Gibraltar is currently experiencing a surge in winter influenza and other flu-like illnesses with hundreds affected. This according to the Government who adds this is usual for this time of year. The Emergency Department at St Bernard's Hospital has seen around 500 cases from the 22nd December to today, with an increase in admission to wards,
In statistics released by the Government, there have been 10 Influenza B cases, 7 which have been admitted into the Critical Care Unit and 3 to John Ward. There have also been 2 Influenza A cases, both of which have been admitted, one in the Critical Care Unit and the other in John Ward. A spokesperson says this increase in influenza cases in Gibraltar is similar to the pattern that is being seen in the UK, where there were as many cases of influenza in the one week before Christmas as there had been in the preceding four weeks. The increase being seen is mostly seasonal but, this year, there seems to be an added surge due to infections caused by the Influenza B virus.
Influenza B infections are known to come in surges every 3-4 years and its surge appears to have coincided this year. Influenza B infections produce illnesses that are usually milder than the more common Influenza A; however they can still cause serious illness, particularly in people with pre-existing diseases and protection against the virus is recommended through vaccination. The standard Flu vaccine contains protection against Influenza B.
According to a spokesperson, health services are coping well with the surge and the GHA staff have been working hard to make available the medicines and skilled staff required to provide round the clock care. The GHA has also applied additional Infection Control procedures to reduce the risk of spread, such as restrictions on visiting and the conversion of the left wing of the Critical Care Unit into an Influenza Bay. John Ward has also made provisions for one quarantined cubicle to isolate patients with flu like symptoms, who do not require critical care intervention.
Additional Cardiac monitoring facilities have been made available in Dudley Toomey Ward if needed. All other exposed patients and staff members have been offered and are now on prophylactic Tamiflu. Additional staffing resources have been put into place to address the patients' complex care needs and additional demand has been placed on the Critical Care Unit.