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Flu wave causes drastic increase in lung and cardiac emergency patients
The flu wave has a firm grip on Germany. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reports new record highs of new infections from week to week. According to the Hannover Medical School (MHH), this is also reflected in a drastic increase in lung and heart emergencies. The situation is still very tense.
Since the beginning of the year, flu infections have skyrocketed. "The number of patients who have had flu symptoms since January has increased from week to week," according to the current MHH report. The number of myocardial infarction patients increased to the same extent during this period. There were also significantly more emergencies in chronic respiratory diseases and in severe pneumonia.
More patients with flu admitted
At a press conference for the "Hannover Herz Lungen Messe", Professor Dr. Tobias Welte, director of the clinic for pneumology at the MHH, on the effects of the flu wave. "Since the beginning of the year, we have registered an increase in our central emergency department in patients with flu symptoms of more than a third compared to the same period in the previous year," said the pneumologist. In the course of increasing influenza diseases, a dramatic "increase in deterioration in obstructive respiratory diseases such as asthma or COPD as well as severe pneumonia" could be observed.
Already 92 heart attacks this year
The cardiac emergencies also show serious consequences of the flu wave. The number of patients with a heart attack at the MHH rose sharply in the first weeks of 2018. A total of 92 patients who had been brought in with a heart attack had to be treated there since the beginning of the year, reports Professor Dr. Johann Bauersachs, Director of the Clinic for Cardiology and Angiology at the MHH. In months without the flu, there were only 40 cases on average and "the number of severe cases with acute cardiac involvement has increased by 25 percent," said Professor Dr. Bauersachs.
The situation is tense
Professor Dr. Axel Haverich, Director of the Clinic for Cardiac, Thoracic, Transplant and Vascular Surgery at the MHH, confirms the increasing heart complaints and emphasizes that since the beginning of winter, more patients have to be treated with a bypass. "The situation is tense, also because we are increasingly being assigned patients from surrounding hospitals," says Professor Bauersachs. Thanks to innovative treatment methods, it is often possible to save their lives. For example, people with respiratory failure are helped in the MHH with the innovative method of artificial ventilation, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). This procedure had already been used four times more frequently in the first weeks of this year than in the summer months.
Medical staff are also increasingly ill
According to the MHH, there are currently more viral infections besides the flu wave. Last but not least, this is evident in the company's own staff: "The number of sick days among our doctors and nursing staff has also been significantly higher in recent months," emphasizes Professor Bauersachs. Because of the flu and the tense situation, there may currently be waiting times for elective patients, the doctor continued. Unfortunately, hospital operations cannot be planned like production in industry.
What are the causes of the strong flu wave?
"The annually recurring virus epidemics, influenza or other pathogens lead to a multiplication of illnesses, which burden the surgeries, but also the hospitals far beyond the normal extent"; explains Prof. Bauersachs. Our healthcare system lacks the structures "to be able to respond to the temporary increase in the number of patients," according to the physician. The experts suspect that the reason for the particularly high number of infections is two main reasons: on the one hand, the willingness to vaccinate has declined significantly, and on the other hand, for the second time in a row, the most common pathogen strain is only insufficiently covered by the flu vaccine used. Influenza B viruses, which directly infect the heart and can thus lead to severe myocarditis, are currently circulating, the doctors explain. (fp)