Portugal ready to tackle flu

By TPN/Lusa, in News · 18-10-2019 01:00:00 · 0 Comments
Portugal ready to tackle flu

Flu vaccinations are now available in Portugal, following the release of data that showed that more than 3,000 people died in the country due to the flu last season.

The data, in the report of the National Influenza Surveillance Programme for the 2018/2019 season, presented by the Ricardo Jorge Health Institute, showed a decrease in the numbers of mortality attributed to influenza, to 3,331, against 3,700 in the 2017/2018 season.

During the 2018/2019 flu season, the number of deaths attributable to flu and extremely low temperatures were estimated at 3,331 and 397 deaths respectively.

Last winter, the number of deaths from all causes was higher than expected between January and February (weeks 2 and 7 of 2019) when there was an excess of deaths of 2,844.

Two events may explain this excess mortality: the seasonal flu epidemic between weeks 01/2019 and 09/2019, with a peak in week 03/2019, and periods with minimum temperatures below normal in the months of January and February 2019, the report said. Even so, influenza activity last season was considered moderate.

The highest percentage of cases of influenza occurred in the 15-44 and 45-64 age groups.

The flu vaccination season started on 14 October in Portugal, with two million vaccines available, 1.4 million to be given free of charge to groups at risk in the Portuguese national health service (SNS) and about 600,000 for sale in pharmacies.

This year, for the first time, the vaccines are tetravalent, protecting against four types of viruses, whereas until now they protected against a maximum of three.

€11 million was spent on 1.4 million doses for the SNS, whereas last year the investment was €4.3 million for the same number.

The tetravalent vaccine increases the probability that the content of the vaccine coincides with the viruses that will circulate and there is the expectation that the vaccine will be more effective and cover more chances of variation of the flu virus in circulation, the director general of health, Graça Freitas said.

In addition to the vaccines available to be administered free of charge at the SNS to people at risk (such as the elderly or some chronically ill patients), there will also be more than 600,000 doses in pharmacies, which can be purchased on a doctor’s prescription, with a 37 percent co-payment.

The Directorate-General for Health (DGS) warned that it is impossible to predict the severity of the next flu season and stressed the importance of the country “preparing as well as possible”, especially through vaccination.

Where it is free and strongly recommended, such as the elderly, nursing home residents and some chronically ill, the vaccine does not require a prescription.


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