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Spain issues MAJOR flu warning as disease expected to hit EPIDEMIC levels

MADRID is bracing for a major flu outbreak as officials confirmed the disease will reach epidemic levels by the end of January, drafting 1,250 extra healthcare professionals to help understaffed centres cope with demand.

At the end of December, the contagion levels of the illness were "sporadic" and "stable" in the Spanish capital.But the city’s Regional Executive said on Thursday that levels were expected to reach epidemic levels within the next two weeks.According to the latest data collected by Spain's Public Health system, the country has already seen 47.58 cases of the disease per 100,000 inhabitants.

But in the Spanish capital, the rate of infection hit 27.8 - ten points below the epidemic threshold of 37.41 set for the region this winter.

In January 2017, Madrid experienced a peak level of the spread of the disease, with an infection rate seven times greater than now.

But Spain’s Director of Public Health, Juan Martinez, explained on Thursday that the disease's "slow behaviour" will cause the strong flu strain to continue infecting subjects through to April.

In a press conference on Thursday the Spanish Public Health system (Sistema Nacional de Salud) also announced a record number of vaccinations given so far this year.

Spain issues MAJOR flu warning as disease expected to hit EPIDEMIC levels
Spain news: Madrid is peparing for a flu epidemic that professionals are understaffed to deal with (Image: GETTY)

Official figures show that more than one million citizens are thought to have been immunized against the disease before the national flu vaccine campaign ends on January 31.

Madrid also announced an extra 721 beds in hospitals had been reserved for those suffering from flu.

It also announced it had hired 1,250 healthcare professionals to tackle the "foreseeable increase in demand" that will be seen by the end of January.

Spain news: 1,250 extra healthcare workers have been drafted to cope with rising infection numbers (Image: GETTY)

But healthcare unions in the country have said the contingency plan to cope with the rising numbers of sick people is “catastrophic” - branding the plans as “insufficient”.

A statement released by Hospital Henares claims the instituion had 62 patients crammed into a room designed for just 20 last week.

Spanish nursing union Sindicato de Enfermeria (Satse) warned that the Hospital Henares - as well as the Ramón y Cajal, Torrejón, Getafe, La Paz and Leganés health centres – were "in a worse condition" to cope with the expected rise in patient numbers.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

Topic: #flu
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