Dr James McDaid
A Donegal GP has said the current outbreak of a viral chest infection is one of the worst he has experienced in over 40 years.
The infection is putting severe pressure on local surgeries and Letterkenny University Hospital, Dr James McDaid said.
The Letterkenny-based GP said the viral infection is lingering for anything between four weeks and eight weeks and has resulted in patients making multiple visits to their GP. He said the virus has caused “an absolutely horrendous amount of sick people”.
The GP said the infection was one of the worst he had seen in 40 years.
He said some patients, particularly children, are being referred to hospital as GPs want to ensure a more serious condition is ruled out. In some cases the chest infection is developing into viral pneumonia, he said.
He said he expected that Letterkenny University Hospital has had one of its busiest Decembers in recent times because of the amount of sickness in the public from the infection and the resulting referrals from GPs.
Respiratory Syncitial Virus occurs every winter but the HSE says there has been a dramatic increase in presentations to emergency departments due to the virus this winter.
The HSE said it is anticipated the virus will continue to be at peak levels throughout December and into the new year.
Earlier this month Minister for Health Simon Harris said during a visit to Letterkenny University hospital that infection control issues had contributed to the bed cisrs at the hospital and others around the country.
“There has been a huge, huge amount of this virus and it is so different to anything else,” Dr McDaid said. “It is lasting four, to six to eight weeks. The same children are coming into the surgery two or three times in a month.”
He said the longevity of the virus means GPs are resorting to “bad medicine”. Although the infection is believed to be viral in the vast majority of cases, GPs are issuing antibiotics to rule out a bacterial infection. He said children with a high fever are also being sent to the hospital for x-rays to rule out viral pneumonia.
“We are inclined to give antibiotics because we want to make sure we cover every angle and maybe it is bacterial,” he said. See P11
He said the infection is affecting all age groups, but mostly children,.
“We feel so sorry for them because they have tried everything and they go to different doctors. Everyone wants child to be healthy for christmas. We give them antibiotics that may not do them any good, but will not do them any harm. The big thing about this is that it is dragging on and on and on.”