At risk groups urged to get flu jab as first cases of winter influenza identified

Published:

The HSE–Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) today (Thursday) urged people in at risk groups to get vaccinated against influenza following the identification of the first cases of Influenza A virus this winter.

The National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) has identified two cases which were detected by a network of 60 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 cases HPSC Director, Dr Darina O’Flanagan, said that while influenza activity in Ireland is low at present, people in at risk groups need to get vaccinated.

"The vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for all people in at risk groups, and from pharmacists for everyone aged 65 and over. An administration charge may apply to people who don't hold medical cards or GP visit cards.

"Those at risk include:

  • Everyone aged 65 years and over
  • Anyone over six months of age with a long term illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease or diabetes
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment
  • Children or teenagers on long-term aspirin therapy
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long stay facilities
  • Healthcare workers and carers

"The 2010/2011 influenza season peaked in early January 2011 and over 2,000 cases of influenza were confirmed by the NVRL.

"Based on advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), this year's seasonal influenza vaccine protects against three common influenza virus strains - the H1N1 (swine flu) strain which is still circulating, influenza A (H3) and influenza B.

"People who were vaccinated last year still need to get their flu jab this year as immunity from the vaccine lasts twelve months and wanes over time.

"Flu is different from the common cold. Flu usually develops quickly over a matter of hours and symptoms include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat. The common cold tends to come on gradually and symptoms usually include a runny nose and a normal temperature. Anyone in the at-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