By Elias Hazou and George Psyllides
THE death from type A influenza of a 34-year-old man with no apparent underlying health conditions sparked an investigation on Thursday by the health ministry, and highlighted the pressure under which hospitals were operating under.
To date, 40 serious cases of type A flu have been diagnosed, of which seven have resulted in death.
Authorities on Thursday were investigating the death of the 34-year-old apparently from type A flu after his family complained that he had repeatedly not been properly treated before died in hospital on Wednesday.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said he had asked for a report on the death while police ordered the man’s funeral, scheduled for Thursday, to be postponed pending a post-mortem.
The man, who died from respiratory failure, apparently did not have any underlying health problems.
“Depending on the findings we will take the necessary measures,” the minister said.
Stavros Georgiou, the father of a small child, first visited Larnaca hospital on the morning of January 30 but left because it was too busy and returned in the afternoon.
Georgiou’s family have since filed charges of medical negligence with Larnaca’s CID.
Reports said the man was diagnosed with laryngitis, was given cortisone and told to get flu medicine from a pharmacy before he was sent home.
His condition worsened the next day and he was rushed to hospital where he was given oxygen. He returned on Friday and was discharged after being treated with oxygen anew, reports said.
On Saturday afternoon, he visited a private hospital where doctors found low oxygen levels and he was rushed to Larnaca general and admitted to the ICU.
His family asked that he be transferred to Nicosia where there was an intensivist around the clock but Nicosia said it had no beds.
Relatives contacted a party leader who spoke to Nicosia general hospital administration and secured his transfer to Nicosia, where he died early on Wednesday.
The party leader in question, Edek’s Marinos Sizopoulos, said Georgiou had not been treated in time “because of the huge problems faced by the public health sector.”
The health minister said on Thursday there was a shortage of vaccines in the private sector, which has asked the ministry for fresh supplies.
The health services admitted that vaccine stocks for type A flu are currently under 2,000.
During a discussion in parliament, it was also said that 90 per cent of people classified as being high-risk have not been inoculated.
Chiming in, former state pathologist Marios Matsakis cited a case known to him, where a 75-year-old woman died after exhibiting symptoms of influenza A.
The incident occurred about two weeks ago, Matsakis said. The woman had been admitted to Paphos general hospital after fracturing her hip. While waiting to be operated on, she contracted the flu and was transferred to the ICU of the Limassol general hospital, where she died.
In a statement, the health ministry’s Surveillance and Control of Infectious Diseases unit said that although the public should be vigilant, there was no cause for panic.
Not everyone coming down with the flu needs to be hospitalised, it added.
This year, the flu bout arrived in Cyprus early, in January.
Individuals vulnerable to type A flu are those aged over 65, or suffering from chronic disease, people with immunodeficiency issues and pregnant women.
Vaccination is the best method, and authorities are already working on securing more supplies, which should arrive on the island over the next few days, the statement added.
Symptoms which might indicate type A flu include extended high fever, shortness of breath, chest pain, drowsiness, headache and feelings of fatigue.
Anyone experiencing such symptoms is advised to visit their doctor.
Parents should wait at least 48 hours after all symptoms have subsided before allowing their children to go back to kindergarten or school.
Influenza A is a highly contagious respiratory illness. It is different from the common cold, which is less severe.
Though not normally dangerous in healthy individuals, sometimes different strains of influenza can cause serious illness.
Usually, bed rest and plenty of fluids are sufficient treatment. But in some cases, a doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication.