Influenza activity increasing in Ireland
People in at-risk groups are urged to get vaccinated against influenza, as the number of reported cases in Ireland almost triples in the past week.
Summary of influenza activity in Ireland
Up to the week ending February 12th 2022 (week 6 2022), the most recent influenza surveillance data indicate that the number of confirmed cases notified to HPSC has almost tripled in the past week.
Thirty-seven laboratory confirmed influenza cases were notified during the most recent week, compared to 13 cases in the previous week. The median age of the 37 notified cases was 23. Of the 37 cases, 13 were reported as hospital inpatients, with a median age of 69. The overall influenza positivity rate reported from the National Virus Reference Laboratory is 10%. This is the threshold which indicates that influenza is circulating in the community.
Since October 2021 (2021/2022 influenza season to date), 120 laboratory confirmed influenza cases have been notified to HPSC. Thirty-four of these cases were reported as hospital inpatients, including two confirmed influenza cases admitted to critical care units. To date this season, two deaths in notified influenza cases have been reported and two hospital outbreaks of confirmed influenza A have been notified to HPSC. One of these outbreaks was reported in week 6 2022.
Influenza A (H3N2) is the predominant virus circulating in Ireland, with only sporadic influenza A(H1)pdm09 and influenza B cases detected.
In addition, the sentinel GP influenza-like illness (ILI) consultation rate has increased in the community. During week 5 2022, the consultation rate was 8.3/100,000 population. During week 6 2022, this increased to 10.3/100,000 population.
Given the increases in most influenza surveillance indicators over the last week, HPSC considers that influenza viruses are currently circulating in the community in Ireland.
The latest influenza surveillance report published each Thursday is available here on the HPSC website.
Influenza (flu) vaccine
The influenza vaccine is available free of charge from GPs and pharmacists for everyone in the recommendation groups. People recommended to get the flu vaccine are:
- People including children (aged 6 months and older)
- with chronic illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, chronic neurological disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders and diabetes.
- Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment and all cancer patients.
- Those with morbid obesity i.e. Body Mass Index ≥ 40.
If you are a carer or a household contact of a person with one of these conditions, you can also get a free flu vaccine too.
- All those aged 50 years and older.
- All pregnant women. The vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy.
- Residents of nursing homes, old people's homes and other long stay facilities.
- Health care workers and carers of those in at-risk groups.
Vaccination remains the most effective means of preventing infection by seasonal influenza viruses and can reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalisation and death. The vaccine takes two weeks to take effect once received. It is not too late to get your flu vaccine this season. You can get it from participating GPs and pharmacists.
Please visit hse.ie/flu for more information on the flu vaccine and eligible groups.
As influenza levels are now increasing, it is recommended that antivirals be considered for the treatment and prevention of influenza in at-risk groups.
What do you do if you have flu-like symptoms
Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms. Advice, tips, information and videos on getting over flu and other common illnesses are available at a new HSE website, www.undertheweather.ie.
When to seek help
If you are in an at-risk group with flu symptoms OR if you are not in an at-risk group but your flu symptoms are severe or getting worse, you should contact your GP. GPs may wish to prescribe antivirals for those presenting with influenza in the at-risk groups. If you need to visit your GP or the Emergency Department, please phone first to explain that you might have flu.
If your child has flu and their symptoms are severe or last for more than one week, contact your GP. Please phone first to explain that they might have flu.
Covering your cough and sneeze can stop the spread of germs that make people sick.
- DO use a tissue and place it immediately in the bin. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser.
- DO cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.
- DON’T cough or sneeze into your hands. You’ll end up spreading germs to everything you touch.
Posters and social media resources for respiratory hygiene are available to download from the HPSC website.
February 18th 2022