Flu incidence in Spain down for first time in a month

by Lorraine Williamson
flu season

After a month of steady rise in the number of acute respiratory infections in Spain, the number of flu infections fell for the first time in a month. However, the number of hospital admissions due to the flu is still rising.

According to the latest data on the epidemic, published Thursday by the Carlos III Health Institute, the total number in the first week of 2024 was 935.1 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. That is a drop of just over 30 points from the previous week’s 966.2, but still far from the pre-Christmas figures.

Within the so-called “tripledemic” – which includes influenza, covid-19 and RSV – flu still has the most observed cases, as indicated by the health institute, which falls under the Ministry of Health. However, there is a trend change in the number of positive influenza results. “We see this trend reflected in the incidence rates in primary care, which show a downward trend in the fourth week after passing the baseline threshold. This could indicate there was a peak last week.

Decline in flu infections almost in all age groups

The number of cases per 100,000 population fell from 430.7 cases to 387.4 in the latest report (10% less). In addition, the number of flu cases fell in all age groups except the 45-64 age group. Moreover, this decreasing trend is general in almost all autonomous communities: the Balearic Islands is the only region where the number of flu cases did not decrease.

Acute respiratory infections

Something similar is happening with acute respiratory infections. Overall, 10 autonomous regions recorded a drop in the number of infections compared to the last week of the year: Andalucia (-45 points); Asturias (-202); Canary Islands (162.5); Cantabria (-207.6); Castilla-La Mancha (-18.4); Castilla y León (-35.5); Valencia (182.9); Extremadura (-3.8); Galicia (-70.4); and Madrid (-85.3). Murcia, Basque Country, La Rioja, Ceuta and Melilla did not report the latest data.

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Hospital admissions and Covid-19 cases rise

However, the paper also shows that the number of hospital admissions due to influenza continues to rise (14 cases per 100,000 population), especially among patients aged 80 years and older (93 cases per 100,000 population).

The number of hospital admissions due to Covid-19 also shows an increase; from 3.8 cases per 100,000 population in the last week of 2023 to 4.2 cases in the first week of 2024. The report – which includes data from January 1 to 7 – also shows a slight increase in the number of covid cases in primary care, which stands at 98.8 cases per 100,000 population (compared with 93 in the previous week). By age group, children under one year old have the highest rates (654 cases per 100,000 population).

Mandatory face masks

The figures were released just a day after the ministry led by Mónica García made the use of  face masks compulsory in health centres across the country. This measure – enacted to curb the wave of infections that began with the Christmas holidays – requires communities to make the use of masks in hospitals and health centres mandatory, although regional authorities can lift this requirement if they register a two-week drop in the number of infections from acute respiratory tract infections.

According to the latter document, Andalucia, the Canary Islands, Cantabria and Extremadura could abolish this obligation. Melilla and the Basque Country too, as they have been registering a decrease in their reports for three weeks.


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