By George Psyllides and Evie Andreou
FOUR deaths linked with type A influenza have been recorded in Cyprus as incidents remain high after rising in the third week of December, the health ministry said on Friday.
In a statement, the ministry said 25 serious flu incidents were recorded in the past two months, 10 of which had to be treated in intensive care units, with four people eventually succumbing.
Eighteen of the patients had predisposing risk factors including diabetes, asthma and chronic respiratory or blood ailments.
The ages varied between 20 months and 91-years-old.
Three of the four patients who died had been suffering with chronic ailments, which were exacerbated by the flu. In the fourth case the flu worsened the patient’s already serious clinical condition.
“They did not die of flu. The flu exacerbated their ailments,” Head of the Infectious Disease Surveillance Unit of the health ministry, Maria Koliou, told state broadcaster CyBC.
Among patients who admitted to hospital due to the flu is a two-and-a half-year-old girl who is in serious condition at the ICU in Makarios children’s hospital.
“Her situation is serious, not critical, but it seems to have caused serious complication to the central nervous system mainly to the brain of the child,” Avraam Elia, head of the Makarios hospital’s paediatric clinic told CyBC.
Elia said that the hospital had exceeded full capacity during the past weeks, but this week things were slightly better as it is, on average, at 90 per cent of capacity.
“This is normal during the winter months. I cannot say this was an epidemic,” he said.
He added that flu was “slightly more aggressive this year than usual” and that it can cause serious complications not only to vulnerable groups but also to the wider population. “But these cases are isolated.”
On Wednesday night, the children’s playroom at Limassol hospital’s paediatric clinic was turned into a ward as there was no other space to place children, as 45 children were admitted. The ward has 30 beds. The hospital said on Friday that the playroom was no longer used as a ward since then other rooms at the hospital have been prepared to receive patients if necessary.
The ministry urged the public, especially vulnerable groups, to apply personal hygiene measures like airing living spaces and places of work, using tissues and binning them after each use, washing hands frequently, avoiding contact with ill people and following a healthy diet.
According to the ministry, the best way of protection, especially for vulnerable groups, was the flu vaccine.
Vaccination is recommended for people over 65, children over six months, and adults with chronic ailments.