Seasonal influenza activity remains high but appears to be declining across Ireland
Based on recent influenza surveillance data, influenza continues to circulate in the community in Ireland. People in at-risk groups are urged to get vaccinated against influenza and it is recommended that antivirals be considered for the treatment and prevention of influenza in at-risk groups due to the continued increase in levels of flu.
Influenza surveillance data
The number of confirmed influenza cases notified to HPSC have decreased in the past week, with 1,573 confirmed influenza cases notified in week 2 2023 (week ending January 15th 2023) compared to 3,045 cases reported in week 1 2023 (week ending January 8th 2023). Since October 2022, 12,477 confirmed influenza cases have been reported to HPSC. Influenza A viruses are predominating this season, with wide circulation of both influenza A(H1)pdm09 and A(H3).
During week 2 2023, influenza decreased in all age groups. The median age of cases was 48 years (over one third of cases were aged 65 years and older).
During week 2 2023, 377 hospitalised confirmed influenza cases were reported with 3,412 hospitalised influenza cases notified for the season to date, including 122 confirmed influenza cases admitted to critical care units.
Forty-eight deaths in influenza cases have been notified to HPSC since the beginning of October 2022. One hundred and thirty-six outbreaks of confirmed influenza have also been reported so far this season.
The influenza-like illness (ILI) rate has been above the Irish baseline ILI threshold of 18.1 per 100,000 since week 46 2022. The sentinel GP ILI consultation rate was 61.7 per 100,000 population during week 2 2023 which is above the low intensity threshold and is a decrease compared to the updated rate of 98 per 100,000 during week 1 2023.
The latest flu report published each Thursday is available here on the HPSC website.
An overview of the epidemiology of winter infections in Week 2, 2023 (8-14/01/2023) is available here on the HPSC website.
The influenza vaccine is available free of charge from GPs and pharmacists for all people in at risk groups. At-risk groups for the influenza vaccine are:
- All those aged 65 years and older
- All those aged 2 to 17 years
- People 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
- All pregnant women. The vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy
- Those with morbid obesity i.e. Body Mass Index ≥ 40
- Residents of nursing homes, old people's homes and other long stay facilities
- Health care workers and carers of those in at-risk groups
- Those in regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl
See the HSE National Immunisation Office website for further information https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/flu/getting-the-vaccine/
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.
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 sanitizer
- 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.
Influenza-like illness (ILI) GP consultation rates give an indication of the overall community levels of influenza activity in Ireland and are reported by selected GPs 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 on the HPSC website.