First case of winter influenza identified

Published:

The National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) has identified the first case of influenza A (H3) virus this winter. The case was detected by a network of 46 sentinel general practices who report weekly on the number of patients with flu like illness.

The network was established by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), in partnership with the Irish College of General Practitioners and the NVRL in 2000.

Commenting on the case, HPSC Director, Dr Darina O'Flanagan said that the first case of this season has been detected slightly earlier this year than in last year's flu season, when the first case was reported in week 52. Overall a total of 132 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza were detected through the sentinel network during the 2005/2006 season, peaking in March 2006.

 "As we enter the flu season it is recommended that people in high-risk groups get vaccinated against influenza.

"These include:

  • The over 65s
  • People with severe illness such as chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease and diabetes
  • Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment including those who have had their spleens removed
  • Children or teenagers on long-term aspirin therapy
  • Residents of nursing homes, old people's homes and other long stay facilities
  • Health care workers.

"The symptoms of influenza infection usually develop over a matter of a few hours and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat. This is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature. Anyone in the high risk categories who develops influenza symptoms should contact their GP."

The weekly influenza surveillance reports along with further information on influenza and flu vaccine are available at www.hpsc.ie.