Influenza activity continues to increase in Ireland
People in high-risk groups are urged to get vaccinated against influenza, as the number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Ireland continued to increase in the past week. It is still not too late to get vaccinated. It is also recommended that antivirals be considered for the treatment and prevention of influenza in at-risk groups.
Influenza is now circulating in the community in Ireland. ILI rates have risen from 34 per 100,000 during week 1 2019 (week ending January 6th 2019) to 49 per 100,000 population during week 2 2019 (week ending January 13th 2019). During week 2 2019, influenza increased in all age groups with the highest rates reported in the 15-64 year age group. The number of people hospitalised with influenza and the number of influenza outbreaks also continued to increase. Influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 is the dominant influenza virus circulating in the community, with influenza A(H3N2) and influenza B also circulating to a much lesser extent. Influenza is expected to increase over the coming weeks and to circulate for at least the next 6 to 8 weeks.
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 do you 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 on the 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.
Covering your cough and sneeze can stop the spread of germs that make people sick.
- DO use a tissue and place it immediately in the bin. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser
- DO cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve. Germs won’t spread through your clothing
- DON’T cough or sneeze into your hands. You’ll end up spreading germs to everything you touch.
Posters and social media resources for respiratory hygiene are available to download from 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.
The weekly influenza surveillance reports and further information on influenza and flu vaccine are available on the HPSC website.