Influenza activity remains high
The number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Ireland remained at high levels throughout the country during the past week. Influenza is expected to circulate for the next four weeks at least. People in at risk groups are urged to get vaccinated against influenza as it is still not too late.
Influenza increased in all age groups with the highest rates in those aged 15-64 years and in those aged 65 years and older. The number of people hospitalised with influenza and the number of influenza outbreaks also remained at high levels.
The general practitioner (GP) consultation rates for influenza-like illness (ILI) remained high at 97.8 per 100,000 population during week 2 (week ending January 14th 2018) compared to 95.5 per 100,000 during the previous week. Influenza B and Influenza A (H3N2) are currently the main flu viruses circulating in the community with slightly more Influenza B reported. The weekly influenza surveillance reports and further information on influenza and flu vaccine are available on the HPSC website.
The influenza vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for all people in at risk groups, and from pharmacists for everyone in at risk groups aged 18 years and over. An administration charge may apply to people who don’t hold medical cards or GP visit cards.
At risk groups for the vaccine are:
- All those aged 65 years and older
- People including children with chronic illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, chronic neurological disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders and diabetes
- Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment and all cancer patients
- All pregnant women. The vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy.
- Those with morbid obesity i.e. Body Mass Index ≥ 40
- Residents of nursing homes, old people's homes and other long stay facilities
- Health care workers and carers of those in at-risk groups.
Vaccination remains the most effective means of preventing infection by seasonal influenza viruses and can reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalisation and death. The vaccine takes two weeks to take effect once received.
What to do if you have flu-like symptoms
Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms. Advice, tips, information and videos on getting over flu and other common illnesses are available at a new HSE website, www.undertheweather.ie
When to seek help
If you are in an at risk group with flu symptoms OR if you are not in an at risk group but your flu symptoms are severe or getting worse you should contact your GP. GPs may wish to prescribe antivirals for those presenting with influenza in the at risk groups. If you need to visit your GP or the Emergency Department, please phone first to explain that you might have flu.
If your child has flu and their symptoms are severe or last for more than one week contact your GP. Please phone first to explain that they might have flu.
Preventing spread to others
Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze (catch it), disposing of the tissue as soon as possible (bin it) and cleaning your hands as soon as you can (kill it) are important measures in helping prevent the spread of germs and reducing the risk of transmission. Posters on preventing spread are available on the HPSC website.