One of the indicators we are watching closely as this pandemic spreads around the world is how badly hospitals are getting overloaded by flu cases.
It is still relatively early in the flu season south of the Equator, with the peak not expected until next month, but already Argentina and Chile are reporting serious demands on their medical system.
Elective surgeries are being canceled in some Buenos Aires hospitals, and mobile flu clinics are being dispatched to some neighborhoods. Of 111 people hospitalized in the country’s capital, 75 are on ventilators.
What would be interesting to know (and I don’t) is how many flu patients are normally on ventilators in Buenos Aires in June?
In Chile, where 5,000 people have been confirmed with the virus, they have reported a total of 7 deaths.
Hospital surge capacity has dwindled over the years, both here in the United States and in many other parts of the world, and that has many officials worried over their ability to cope with a large influx of flu cases as this pandemic progresses.
This from Reuters.
Wed Jun 24, 2009 1:32pm EDT
By Fiona Ortiz
BUENOS AIRES, June 24 (Reuters) - Argentina is reinforcing overwhelmed hospitals as H1N1 deaths rise and flu cases swamp emergency rooms in and around the capital during the southern hemisphere winter.
Argentina has confirmed 18 deaths from the new strain of virus, also known as swine flu, putting the South American country third after Mexico and the United States in the number of fatal cases. The health ministry has confirmed 1,294 cases.
Medical authorities suspended non-urgent surgery in many urban hospitals to free up beds for flu cases.
The government also sent mobile clinics to poor neighborhoods and dedicated one hospital in the Malvinas Argentinas municipality outside the capital exclusively to flu cases.
The H1N1 virus is spreading rapidly in an area known as the conurbano, the densely populated working class suburbs and slums that ring Buenos Aires where eight people have died from the new flu and 111 are hospitalized, 75 of them on respirators.