Objective: Respiratory infections are a frequent causes of medical attendance. Influenza viruses increases this phenomena. The aim of this study was to prospectively identify GPs' increased work in terms of visits and time.
Methods: Over a period of five months 5 GPs recorded sex, age, number and place of visits, telephone consultations of the patients visited for acute respiratory disease (ARD)which included acute respiratory infections (ARI), influenza (FLU) and Influenza-like illness (ILI). Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) were classified as sinusitis, rhinitis, otitis, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI) were classified as tracheitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, bronchopneumonia, acute episodes of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. FLU and ILI were considered two different entities on the basis of symptoms.
Results: Acute respiratory disease increase of 22 patients attending every GP's office monthly (from 176 to 198 total visits). 6,542 patients were observed. The incidence of ARD was 33.5% (2191: 1,091 female and 1,100 males). URTI affected 944 patients, LRTI 739, FLU 328 and ILI 180. The increase in home visits grew from 10 to 36. Each home visit took from 15 to 45 minutes. In a high number of cases (236), home visits were necessary for sick-leave certificates. FLU (54%) and LRTI (37.5%) required more attention, and they were the primary causes for visits. Telephone consultations took place for all ILI or FLU of minor severity and in young people.
Conclusion: During the winter there is an increased work-load for GPs due to the diffusion of influenza virus and respiratory tract diseases. "Burn out syndrome" is increasing among the GPs. Territorial GPs' action is highly efficacious. Patients self-certification should be evaluated. Vaccine therapy could be more effective if done on a larger population. More research is needed.