First case of winter influenza identified
The National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) has identified the first case of influenza A virus this winter. The case was detected by a network of 54 sentinel general practices who report weekly on the number of patients with influenza-like illness.
The network was established by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, in partnership with the Irish College of General Practitioners and the NVRL in 2000.
Commenting on the case, HPSC Specialist in Public Health Medicine, Dr Joan O'Donnell said that the first two confirmed cases of influenza this season have been detected even though overall influenza activity is low. In total, 150 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza were detected through the sentinel network during the 2007/2008 season, peaking in January 2008.
"As we enter the influenza season it is recommended that people in high-risk groups get vaccinated against influenza. These include:
The over 65s
People including children 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
Poultry workers, veterinary inspectors, agricultural workers, park rangers and those with likely contact with water fowl (as influenza puts them at risk of co-infection with avian influenza)
"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