dead corps on table in morgue. Person standing in background

The president of the Portuguese Society of Public Health says that we need to understand the number of excess deaths between the ages of 45 and 64, starting by finding out if they were sick.

The president of the Portuguese Society of Public Health said on Thursday that there is “a problem of excessive mortality” between the ages of 45 and 64 that needs to be analyzed and studied in detail.

“This group has an increase in mortality that will have to be analyzed. We need to see if the people concerned were sick, smokers or had other problems,” Francisco George told Lusa.

For the former director-general of Health, it is necessary to understand, for example, if these people were undergoing treatment, if they were asthmatics, if they were medicated with cortisone, if they had oncological diseases under treatment.

“We need to study in detail the cause of death of these patients and understand whether or not they had an indication to be vaccinated, because there are risk groups with a formal indication to be vaccinated,” he said, commenting that this phenomenon “can’t be interpreted from one moment to the next”, without carrying out in-depth work.

According to the Public Health specialist, the Directorate-General for Health is paying attention not only to the causal nature, but also to the age at which deaths occur, as well as the conditions of each patient. “This work is underway and will be fundamental in drawing lessons for preventive programs to be applied in the future,” he said, stressing that the problem of mortality “cannot be ignored”.

The doctor also noted that historically in Portugal, “the distribution of deaths over the 12 months of the year is very uneven. The months of December or January can have 11,000, 12,000 deaths and the month of August can have 7,000, 8,000, 8,500 deaths.”

Respiratory infections, namely influenza A (H1N1), are overloading hospital emergency rooms, but Francisco George said that there are other viral infections that “are equally worrying”, one of which is covid-19, whose vaccination is below the desirable coverage.

“We need to insist on these issues of vaccination, which is free and very effective, above all to reduce serious cases,” which are the ones that lead the population to seek hospital services.

“People who are admitted to wards or intensive care are mostly people who have not been vaccinated. Therefore, there is a greater risk of serious progression of the disease for those who are not vaccinated,” as is the case with covid-19.

Asked whether people under 60, who are not indicated for vaccination, should be immunized, he explained that there is a limit on vaccines, given the quotas for states to import vaccines manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, which take into account the previous year’s consumption.

The vaccines cannot be stored because they are different every year, as a result of the analysis of the flu strains that circulated in the southern hemisphere.

“Flu viruses are constantly changing every year. I often say that they are more like chameleons than chameleons, because chameleons only change the color of their skin, but flu viruses change their genetic nature,” he stressed.

Francisco George also warned of “the organizational problem” resulting from the lack of doctors and nurses that is causing the crisis situation in the National Health Service.

“The problems of waiting times in emergency services cannot be ignored and will have to be resolved quickly,” he stressed, noting that this type of pressure is not the first time it has arisen in winter.

“When demand increases, naturally the supply of medical care also has to increase, because if it doesn’t we’ll end up in this situation of a lack of response, which isn’t acceptable. So we have to find a way to resolve this issue together,” he said.

On the other hand, the population will have to collaborate by avoiding closed environments with crowds of people, keeping their distance, using masks if necessary, and paying particular attention to hand hygiene.

Francisco George also advised people to contact the SNS24 line or their doctor before going to the emergency room, “not least because the hospital waiting room is a place where there is a risk of respiratory infections being transmitted”.

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