ATHENS – With at least 40 reported dead so far, Greek hospitals are seeing hundreds of people afflicted with the illness seeking treatment as health officials said most of the toll was those who didn’t get flu shots but with Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis saying: “Let’s not get crazy, it’s not as if it’s a disaster.”
Polakis, a surgeon who openly smokes in the Health Ministry where it is banned, as well as in night clubs after telling the European Union’s Health Minister, who criticized him, to butt out, told
Kontra TV “The majority of cases involve the H1N1 virus strand, which is stronger than the mild one last year,” before indicating the number of deaths wasn’t serious although the victims included a 5-year-old girl.
That drew ire from Movement for Change leader Fofi Genimmata and To Potami chief Stavros Theodorakis who said he was downplaying the loss of life. Polakis has become a kind of designated political attacker for the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras allowing him to speak out on foreign policy, politics and not reining him in for provocations.
The hospitals were said to be trying to keep the disease from the H1N1 virus from spreading among its staff trying to treat the overloads with the numbers said rising because so many didn’t get shots, with many Greeks shunning them.
“The last time the Georgios Gennimatas Hospital was on duty, half of Athens turned up,” the President of the union of Athens and Piraeus hospital doctors, Matina Pagoni, told Kathimerini.
“People are panicking and come in with the slightest of symptoms,” she said, adding that many people are forced to wait for hours outside hospital emergency units. “If they don’t have the flu, they are at risk of contracting it. If they do have it, they may give to other patients,” Pagoni explained.
She said people who believe they have the illness should first stay to home and contact family doctors to get advice on whether to go to a hospital with public facilities in Greece, especially emergency rooms, commonly packed in the best of times and with doctors and nurses complaining for years they are understaffed.
With an increased demand for vaccines- four months after the first advisory recommended shots in October each year, the National Organization for Medicines (EOF) ordered an additional 50,000 flu shots, which were expected to arrive this week, the paper said.
Health experts say that it is never too late for people to get vaccinated as the flu virus is expected to remain active until the end of March.
An expected wave of cold weather could make it worse, said Sotirios Tsiodras, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Athens University’s Medical School, telling the paper that could spread the illness.