Influenza activity continues at high levels
People in at-risk groups for influenza including pregnant women (at all stages of pregnancy) are still urged to get vaccinated, as the number of reported cases of influenza in Ireland remains at high levels.
The latest HPSC data also show there has been an increase in flu cases and a small increase in hospital flu admissions.
The highest numbers of influenza cases have been notified in children under the age of four and adults aged 65 years and older.
Influenza surveillance in Ireland
Based on recent influenza surveillance data, influenza is circulating at high levels in the community in Ireland. The number of confirmed influenza cases notified to HPSC is at high levels with 1,562 confirmed influenza cases notified in week 4 2024 (week ending January 28th).
During week 4 2024, influenza was at high levels in all age groups but mainly in those aged 65 years and older (there were 494 cases reported in this age group, 32% of all reported cases in week 4 2024). The median age of influenza cases reported in week 4 2024 was 42 years (approximately one third of cases were aged 65 years and older). The overall influenza positivity rate reported by the National Virus Reference Laboratory was 32% for week 4 2024.
Since October 2023 (season to date), 9,212 confirmed influenza cases have been reported to HPSC. During week 4 2024, 383 confirmed influenza cases were hospitalised. There have been 2,381 confirmed influenza cases hospitalised for the influenza season to date, including 67 confirmed influenza cases admitted to intensive care units.
One-hundred and thirty-five outbreaks of confirmed influenza have also been reported to HPSC so far this season, with 33 outbreaks reported in week 4 2024. All three influenza subtypes, influenza A(H1)pdm09, influenza A(H3) and influenza B have been notified. Influenza A is the dominant virus circulating, with a higher proportion of influenza A(H3) being observed in recent weeks.
The influenza-like illness (ILI) rate was below the Irish baseline ILI threshold of 18.1 per 100,000 during week 4 2024 (week ending January 28th) at 13.6 per 100,000 population. The ILI rate for week 3 2024 (week ending January 21st) was 17 per 100,000 population. Age specific ILI consultation rates were below the age specific baseline thresholds in all age groups during week 4 2024.
The latest flu report, published each Thursday, is available on the HPSC website.
The Respiratory Virus Notification Data Hub shares a weekly epidemiological summary for COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) for Ireland.
The influenza vaccine is available free of charge from GPs and pharmacists for all people in at risk groups. An administration charge may apply to people who don’t hold medical cards or GP visit cards. At-risk groups for the influenza vaccine are:
- All those aged 65 years and older
- All those aged 2 to 17 years
- All pregnant women. The vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy.
- 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
- 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 national immunisation website for the risk groups at 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.
Anti-viral medications for influenza
As influenza levels remain high, it is recommended that antivirals be considered for the treatment and prevention of influenza in primary care settings.
Those with flu who are eligible for treatment with antivirals include patients in clinical at-risk groups, as well as any patients who are at risk of severe illness and complications from flu if not treated. This includes people in clinical at-risk groups who present with symptoms of flu and those who have been exposed to flu-like illnesses from someone they live with, including residents of nursing homes.
An alert has been issued notifying the healthcare system that antiviral medicines can now be prescribed for cases of community acquired influenza.
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 at https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/common-illnesses/
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.
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.