Influenza activity increases significantly
The number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Ireland increased significantly in the past week. Influenza is expected to circulate for next 4 weeks at least. People in high-risk groups are urged to get vaccinated against influenza as it is still not too late to get vaccinated.
Influenza increased in all age groups with the highest rates in those aged 15-64 years and those aged 65 years and older. The number of people hospitalised with influenza and the number of influenza outbreaks also continued to increase.
The general practitioner (GP) consultation rates for influenza-like illness (ILI) increased significantly to 98.2 per 100,000 population during week 1 (week ending January 7th 2018). Influenza B and A (H3N2) are currently the predominant viruses circulating in the community with more influenza B than is usually observed at this time of year. 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
Anyone in one of the high-risk categories should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms. GPs may wish to prescribe antivirals for those presenting with influenza in the high risk groups. If you need to visit your GP or the Emergency Department, please phone first to explain that you might have flu.
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 respiratory etiquette are available on the HPSC website.
ILI GP consultation rates give an indication of the overall community levels of influenza activity in Ireland and are reported by selected GPs as part of a surveillance system jointly run by the Irish College of General Practitioners, the National Virus Reference Laboratory and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.