Austria warns of ‘preventable deaths’ as hospitalisation rates skyrocket

The number of patients in intensive care in Austria has increased by 40 percent within a week, significantly increasing the risk of ‘preventable deaths’ due to coronavirus.

Austria warns of 'preventable deaths' as hospitalisation rates skyrocket
Photo: DPA

Authorities say the clock is ticking until the country exhausts its ICU capacity. The consequence of doing so would be a spike in “preventable deaths”, says Austrian intensive care representative body ÖGARI. 

Intensive care admissions head skyward

After a 40 percent increase in the number of patients in intensive care in Austria, beds are currently at 24 percent capacity. 

According to Austria’s Health Minister Rudolf Anschober, an occupancy rate of 60 to 70 percent would be critical. 

The Minister said the capacities of ICU facilities were currently the most important instrument in controlling the virus. 

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Tuesday that hospitalisation rates would be the key factor in deciding whether to pursue another lockdown. 

UPDATED: Where are Austria's coronavirus hotspots?

Currently, 203 ICU beds were being used in Austria. At the peak in spring, the occupancy was 288. 

The Austrian Health Department has forecast that 243 intensive care beds will be utilised by November 4th – although this would be at a rate of five new ICU admissions per day, lower than the current rate of eight per day. 

‘Increasing tenfold’

Kurier reports that unless infections – and hospitalisations – decline dramatically, there will be an increase in the 'preventable death rate'.

“Since the beginning of September the corresponding values ​​have increased almost tenfold – a trend reversal is not in sight,” ÖGARI said in a statement.

“Experts in intensive care medicine cannot understand that, in view of the increasing number of infections and such rates of increase, there is still occasional talk of a relaxed situation with regard to intensive care.

“Even in well-equipped health systems like Austria’s, the routine degree of utilisation of the intensive resources – without the additional burden of the pandemic – was deliberately very high and no large “reserve capacities” were neither personnel nor structurally economically justifiable. 

“Maybe not everyone is aware of that. “

Situation more serious in some states

The occupancy rate in the capital of Vienna – which has the highest death toll of any Austrian state – is 24 percent, the same as the Austrian average. 

Similarly, the occupancy rate was not yet critical in Upper Austria, where it is currently 18 percent. 

However, at the current rate, all coronavirus ICU bed allocations would be used up by the start of November- meaning an end to elective surgery in the state. 

READ: Austria's coronavirus death toll passes 1,000

In Vorarlberg, the situation is more serious. While 43 patients were being treated on Sunday for coronavirus, this rose to 69 on Tuesday. 

Similarly, authorities in Tirol are concerned about rising rates of hospitalisation. 

Governor Günther Platter (ÖVP) said on Tuesday that the situation was “quite serious”, reports Kurier. 

“It is our joint task to do everything in our power to prevent our health system from being overwhelmed,” he said. 

The number of coronavirus infected rose from 107 on Friday to 152 on Tuesday, with 18 of them being treated in intensive care.

“We must do all we can to prevent the virus from spreading unchecked, especially in older population groups and among people at risk, so as not to bring our health system to the limit of what is possible,” said infectiologist and director of the Innsbruck University Clinic for Internal Medicine, Günter Weiss. 


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EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

Austria's capital city Vienna has begun registration appointments for those who want to get a monkeypox vaccine. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

As of September 9th, people can make reservations for monkeypox vaccination in Vienna, authorities announced. It is possible to register for the vaccine using the health service line by calling 1450 or via the Impfservice website.

The City of Vienna has said the pre-registration is needed because all planning will be done through a central system due to a shortage of vaccines.

“Please understand that due to the vaccine shortage, we cannot offer preventive monkeypox vaccination to everyone interested. We can use the reservation platform to quickly allocate available appointments and contact interested parties as soon as there are more vaccines”, the authorities said.

After the registration, people will be contacted to book appointments on September 14th. The first available date will be September 19th.

READ ALSO: Monkeypox in Austria: What causes it and is it serious?

Who should be vaccinated against monkeypox?

Vaccination of the general population is currently not recommended.

Preventive vaccination is only offered to health care workers with a very high risk of exposure to people with monkeypox (designated monkeypox departments/outpatient clinics/offices) and persons with individual risk behaviour (persons with frequently changing sexual contacts), the City of Vienna said.

The health authorities in Vienna also have a specific information sheet in English with more information on the disease.

Monkeypox is a notifiable disease caused by a virus closely related to the smallpox virus and which can cause a condition similar to smallpox but rarely deadly. People with immunodeficiencies, pregnant women and children are at risk of more severe symptoms.

The virus spreads from person to person through contact with infectious skin lesions, via air droplets through speaking, coughing, sneezing, or other body fluids, and when having prolonged and close physical contact, e.g. through sexual intercourse.

READ ALSO: Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Usually, the first symptoms show up 5 to 14 days (at the latest, 21 days) after exposure. These include fever, general exhaustion, headaches, muscle and body aches, gastrointestinal problems and frequently painfully swollen lymph nodes.

“If you have symptoms and have had contact with someone with monkeypox, you must self-isolate at once and call 1450. If you have a confirmed monkeypox infection, you need to stay in self-isolation until the last crust has fallen off”, the Austrian authorities added.