HPSC urges high-risk groups to get vaccinated against flu as cases treble over past week

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The Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Thursday) 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 trebled in the past week.

ILI rates have risen from 16.3 per 100,000 in the last week of 2007 to 52.4 per 100,000 in the first week of 2008.

"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 groups are:

  • People aged 65 years or older
  • People with chronic illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart 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 and carers of those in risk groups.

"Health professionals should use antiviral drugs for the 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," she said.

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.

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The weekly influenza surveillance reports and further information on influenza and flu vaccine are available here