Incidence of the viral condition has reached 63.62 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – only 0.064% of the population, but in a typical small coastal town on one of Spain’s Costas of around 30,000 residents, this means two of them are already infected.
Again, this figure does not appear high, but when considering that during the symptom-free incubation period each person may have come into contact with several shopkeepers, their own family members, friends and work colleagues, and perhaps pupils and teachers at their children’s schools, the potential for each of these people to infect around 50 to 100 others is high.
The start of the 2016-2017 winter influenza spread was first detected in the second week of December, and the majority of patients are infected with the A-strain – 97% of them – the most common of which is the A(H3N2) type.
Above-average numbers of ‘flu patients have been diagnosed in the Balearics, Extremadura, the Basque Country, La Rioja and the Spanish-owned city-province of Melilla on the northern Moroccan coast, near the Algerian border, whilst in the northern region of Asturias, the number is dramatically higher.
Most of those affected are, ironically, the age-group eligible for a free ‘flu jab – 65 and over – who account for 63%, whilst another 17% are aged 45-plus.
Of the total, 89% had other health risk factors that could complicate and worsen their influenza, such as chronic cardiovascular conditions, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), accounting for around four in 10 patients each, and in the under-15s, chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma were found in 9% of patients.
So far, 88 ‘flu cases in all bar two regions in Spain have been hospitalised as their condition is said to be serious, plus five deaths, one of which involved a stay in intensive care.
All the deceased were pensioners, and none had been vaccinated.
The over-65s or, in some regions, the over-60s are all automatically called up for a free influenza inoculation and should not neglect to take this up.
Anyone with certain physical health problems including cancer, heart conditions, high blood pressure and others as advised by a GP, and anyone who works in close contact with the public – teachers, emergency services and even town councillors – are nearly always recommended to have the injection and usually given it for free.
Those not eligible for the vaccination on the national health system can acquire one over the counter at any pharmacy for around €20 and book an appointment at their local public doctors’ surgery to have it administered, or do so themselves if they are confident.
For expats returning to the UK for a visit over the winter, most supermarkets and high-street pharmacies supply and administer the jab for around eight pounds, or just under €10.
Younger patients and those with no medical conditions generally bounce back quickly from the ‘flu, but risk passing it to others who may not have been vaccinated and in whom the virus could have a much more serious effect on them.
To this end, those not eligible for a free jab are strongly advised to buy one.
Contrary to popular myth, getting a cold after having the ‘flu vaccination is not a sign that it ‘does not work’, since the common cold virus is different to that of influenza and has no available vaccination.
Certain mild cold symptoms are sometimes reported immediately after the vaccination, but are generally harmless.