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A flu epidemic has hit Romania hard at the start of the cold season
Nearly a thousand cases of flu reported per week, overcrowded pediatric hospitals and drug stores running short on key supplies - this is what the start of the flu season looks like in Romania. This is the first winter after the COVID-19 pandemic when health safety restrictions are lifted. As medics had expected, a wave of respiratory infections, some of them with complications, has been reported this month, affecting children in particular. The number of people reporting symptoms has gone up alarmingly in recent weeks, and patients sometimes wait for hours in emergency wards or in family physician practices before getting a consultation.
At the same time, the number of children requiring admission due to complications has also gone up, doctors say. In this context, earlier this month, the Health Ministry announced the setup of 59 centers for medical evaluation of children with respiratory infections, a measure designed to facilitate children's access to medical assistance and to reduce waiting times in emergency wards. In turn, pharmacists say they have run out of anti-inflammatory drugs and antipyretics, which are demanded particularly for treating children. The Association of Industrial Producers of Medicine in Romania has confirmed that the use of ibuprofen-based drugs and paracetamol has gone up by 50% compared to 2021. The same employers' association says that drug stores are however equipped with alternatives to the best-known medicine brands, arguing the problem is likely to be solved early next year, when approximately 200 thousand such pain relief drugs, made in both Romania and abroad, are expected to arrive. Health Minister Alexandru Rafila says the situation is the same in other countries and is a consequence of growing drug consumption. The Minister recalls, however, that the authorities have presented alternatives to the best-known medicine that are currently unavailable. Furthermore, drug shelves are empty also due to mispricing, the Health Minister argued, adding that a new methodology for setting prices is now being considered, in addition to possibly introducing a temporary restriction on exporting certain drugs.
"Over the coming period we will consult with the National Health Insurance Agency in terms of introducing a new methodology for setting prices, which should prevent drugs from becoming unavailable due to commercial reasons. We are also examining the possibility of restricting the export of certain drugs, particularly antibiotics for children and other types of medicine, including oncology drugs".
Doctors say the best ways to prevent seasonal flu include taking the anti-flu vaccine, observing hygiene regulations and avoiding crowded areas. Moreover, authorities say, the new anti-COVID serum adapted to combat the Omicron strains of the virus is also available on the market. (VP)
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