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Respiratory physicians wary of Covid-19 and influenza threat

The President of the Irish Thoracic Society (ITS) Dr Aidan O’Brien has said respiratory physicians are “very apprehensive” about the winter due to the combined threat of Covid-19 and seasonal influenza. However, he said the health service was better braced to cope with a Covid-19 surge than in March. Speaking to the Medical Independent ahead of the ITS’s Annual Scientific Meeting, which will take place virtually on 3-4 December, Dr O’Brien said Covid-19 and seasonal influenza represented a “double whammy” that would put a severe strain on services. “We are better prepared for Covid-19,” said Dr O’Brien, Consultant Respiratory Physician at University Hospital Limerick. “We have therapies now that do work, and we have surge plans in place.

We are definitely better braced than we were back in March. “The whole challenge is now going into the winter with influenza. We do fear the double whammy of influenza and Covid. As we know, in the winter time, most admissions due to other diseases drop actually, while respiratory disease goes up. So the biggest problem contributing to trolleys in the winter is respiratory disease. We are very apprehensive going into the winter time, from a respiratory community point of view.” Dr O’Brien also outlined the additional pressure Covid-19 was putting on respiratory services. “Most Covid-19 admissions are for respiratory problems. Also, people with long-term symptoms, as a result of Covid, is quite a significant percentage and a lot of those symptoms are respiratory.” Dr O’Brien noted that Ireland only had one respiratory physician per 80,000, which is far fewer than the recommended one per 35,000.

See p34 for our preview of the ITS Annual Scientific Meeting.

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