Flu is present in Malaga province again and it is on the increase, although the incidence is low. Between 19 and 25 December 40.69 cases were registered per every 100,000 inhabitants, according to figures from the provincial Health Delegation. The previous week there had been 12 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Despite this increase, the presence of flu in Malaga is lower than the average for Andalucía (62.14 cases per 100,000) and less than half of that for Spain, where the figure is 91.31. Experts say that flu is likely to reach its peak in Malaga in early or mid-February. However, it could occur earlier, bearing in mind that the epidemic wave in the 2016-2017 season began in week 50, in other words from 12 to 18 December, six weeks earlier than the previous season.
GPs who work at health centres in Malaga say they are seeing patients with flu, but the illness is still in the intensifying stage. They say that the timing of the peak of flu will depend on whether the temperatures go down and the cold is accentuated.
Flu is an infectious illness of the respiratory tracts caused by the influenza virus. It is transmitted by drops of saliva which are expelled through coughing or sneezing. It occurs after an incubation period of 48 hours and usually comes on suddenly. The illness normally lasts about a week. As it is caused by a virus, patients should not take antibiotics. The characteristic symptoms are headache, high temperature, shivering, muscular pain, difficulty in breathing, a dry cough and sore throat.
To prevent it, experts advise wrapping up well when you go out, wearing clothes which are made from natural fibres and are not too tight, keeping your feet, hands and head warm outside, not taking physical exercise outside, especially when there is no sunshine, so you don't get cold; drinking a lot of water and hot drinks, and eating fruit.
The best way of preventing flu among the so-called 'population at risk' is a vaccine. This is recommended for people over 65, those with chronic illness, pregnant women, health professionals and those who work in public and community services, including police officers and fire fighters, prison officers and internment centres.
The anti-flu vaccine recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) again this year is one which has proven effective against three strains, two type A and one type B. Apart from vaccination, it is important to follow hygiene guidelines such as covering your mouth, using disposable handkerchiefs and washing your hands frequently.
The WHO uses a worldwide epidemiology monitoring system, which includes information grom the Sentinel Group for Flu Monitoring in Andalucía, which has a major laboratory in Granada and a network of 116 professionals all over the region who send weekly reports on the flu situation during the whole season, from early October until mid-May.
These experts collect random samples of secretions which provide information about the type of virus in circulation, with the aim of including it in the composition of the recommended vaccine for the following season.
In Spain, the region hit hardest by flu in the past week was Asturias, with 464.69 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Melilla (169.6), the Basque Country (160.9), Castilla y León (149.8), Extremadura (123.4), Navarra (114.2), Cataluña (111), Cantabria (107.2) and La Rioja (104.7).