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GPs to see 12 million respiratory cases this winter

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GP practices across the UK have an estimated 12 million respiratory related consultations in the winter months due to seasonal variation in respiratory pathogens, new study finds.

A scientific paper exploring the respiratory stresses of GPs during winter months has discovered that Influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are the main seasonal pathogens associated with seasonal increases in GP consultations.

Published this month in Cambridge Epidemiology & Infection, the paper uses statistical modelling and analysis of laboratory reports and GP consultation data to assess the volume and impact of respiratory pathogens on GP consultations between 2011 and 2015.

“We estimate that a general practice with 10 000 patients would have seen an additional 18 respiratory tract infection consultations per winter week.

“Understanding the burden of respiratory pathogens on health care is key to improving public health emergency response and interventions. In temperate regions [such as England], there is a large seasonal rise in influenza and other respiratory pathogens.”

A third of these consultations were seen to be related to influenza, but other conditions including Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Rhinovirus and Human Metapneumovirus also accounted for a large percentage of the seasonal rise in appointments.

The researchers hope that their study will help to guide the NHS in more accurate planning of health care services in the coming months to minimise the impact of these winter pressures.

“Knowing which pathogens are currently causing the most serious illnesses may inform public health actions, e.g. the prescribing of anti-viral drugs during periods when influenza is circulating. Secondly, understanding the relative burden of different pathogens over time on a population level will inform priorities for public health interventions, e.g. vaccination policies, public health campaigns and public health messaging.”

 

For more information, you can access the article in the Journal of Epidemiology & Infection here.

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