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The BBC's James Westhead reporting from France
"It all costs a lot more but it does seem to cope better"
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BBC's Guto Harri reports
"A political as well as a clinical problem"
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Dr Douglas Fleming, Royal College of GPs
"People really have to recognise the message that's being delivered"
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Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 13:24 GMT
Flu spreads across Europe

Flu french-style: a patient in Calais

The flu outbreak which has brought misery to Britain is also sweeping across Europe.

Flu nightmare
Few countries have escaped the effects of so far - those which are flu-free are expected to experience an outbreak within the next few weeks.

France is reported to be in the throes of a full-scale epidemic, with the capital, Paris, particularly badly affected.

It is estimated that three million people are suffering from flu in France, and many intensive care units are full.

However, the high number of hospital beds per head of population, combined with a well-used private health system, in France has allowed it to cope well with the epidemic.

While many British hospitals have been forced to cancel all non-emergency surgery, French hospitals have been able to carry on.

Europe: flu outbreaks
Netherlands: 20% of population infected - flu nine times normal winter levels in some areas
Denmark: early stages of epidemic
Germany: some regions badly affected
France: full epidemic declared - hospitals full
Norway: epidemic reported
Latvia: flu cases quadruple
Dr Michel-Yves Grauwin, head of surgery at a hospital in Calais, northern France, said: "In winter we have some patients with flu, but we can carry out surgery without problems."

In addition, the flu vaccination programme in France is far more effective, with 85% of the elderly being immunised, compared to 25% in the UK.

In the Netherlands, health officials said they expected the flu epidemic to leave 20% of the country coughing and sniffling in the weeks ahead.

The eastern provinces have reported nine times the usual number of cases, according to the National Center for Influenza.

Spain's Health Ministry said cases were up about 30% over last year, but attributed that to the flu season starting about two weeks earlier than usual.

Danish authorities said the country seemed to be in the early stage of an epidemic, while in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, about 60 percent of people being treated in health clinics were diagnosed with the flu.

A flu outbreak in the German states of Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Thuringia was reported to be slightly higher than the normal expected rate.

Dr Grauwin: 'no problems'
Rolf Heckler, chief of the National Reference Center for Flu in Hanover, said doctors were reporting about 30 percent of their patients with respiratory infections have the flu virus.

This has combined with an epidemic of RSV - a respiratory virus - in the South of the country to make the 1999/2000 season one of the worst on record.

Two million Italians are reportedly suffering from flu with 250,000 new cases each week. This is the third consecutive week in which the number of flu sufferers in Italian hospitals has increased.

Epidemic declared

A spokesman at the Swiss federal department of health, said the number of influenza cases could be classified as an epidemic and was approaching record numbers.

An epidemic is also reported to have been declared in Norway. About 1,000-2,000 of Norway's 4.5 million inhabitants die every year from flu. There is a similar situation in Sweden - all hospitals are reported to be overladen with flu cases - and nurses are being brought in from neigbouring Denmark to tend the sick.

Some 2 million people have succumbed to the Sydney flu virus in Italy so far. British scientists expect complications to result in some 20,000 fatalities.

In Albania, sales of "anti-influenza pills" in the Tirana area are booming because of an epidemic.

Latvia saw the number of people infected with flu increased four times over a week to 5,776 or 725 per 100,000 people. About 10% of the compulsory military service soldiers have also been hit.

Hospitals have swamped by thousands of victims are being forced to postpone critical operations on chronically ill patients.

Other countries are awaiting their turn - the virus is expected to start showing itself in Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria within the next fortnight.
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See also:
11 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu crisis blamed on ministers
10 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu crisis: How bad is it?
10 Jan 00 |  Health
Coping with the outbreak: One hospital's story

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