HPSC urges high-risk categories to get vaccinated against flu as cases more than double in two weeks

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The Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Tuesday) urged people in high-risk categories to get vaccinated against influenza, as the number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) reported in Ireland has more than doubled in the past two weeks.

The rate of ILI cases has risen to 44.5 per 100,000 population from a previous rate of 22.5 per 100,000.

"As influenza is now circulating in the community, it is important that people in high-risk categories get vaccinated against influenza," says HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Joan O'Donnell.

High-risk categories 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
  • Healthcare workers

"We are advising health professionals to use antiviral drugs for the prevention or treatment of influenza in high-risk groups.

"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 one of the high-risk categories should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms," said Dr O'Donnell.

ILI rates give an indication of the overall level of influenza activity in Ireland and are reported by selected general practitioners 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 at www.hpsc.ie.