High death toll from flu among elderly last winter
Published 06/06/2015 | 02:30
The flu took a high death toll over last winter, with 41 deaths from the virus officially reported.
Higher than normal deaths were reported in people over 65 from the beginning of the year. The average age of those who died was 81.
The main virus circulating was the A(H3) strain which was only partly covered by the flu vaccine, and particularly affects the elderly.
Public health doctors examined the viruses circulating. They looked at determining the impact of circulating flu viruses on morbidity and mortality among the public.
Rates of flu-like illness peaked at the end of February at 70.4 per 100,000 population, the highest peak rate since the winter of 2010 and 2011.
"The total number of confirmed influenza cases hospitalised this season is the highest reported since 2010/2011," said the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
Patients who were hospitalised with flu were highest in infants under a year and those aged 65 years and older.
"For influenza admissions to critical care units, the highest age-specific rate was in those aged 65 years and older," said the report.
The majority of influenza outbreaks affected the elderly in residential care facilities, with the highest number of outbreaks recorded since the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
It said the season was more severe than recent winters with the mismatch between the vaccine and the main circulating strain an important factor.
Meanwhile, some areas of the health service have had to adopt a system of designating some workers to be "flu champions" to persuade colleagues to get the shot and protect the patients they are caring for.
The continuing low level of uptake of the flu vaccine in parts of the health service remains a serious concern.
Figures for the 2013-2014 winter show that the take-up was just 17.4pc among hospital staff, and it was lower still at 15pc in nursing homes where elderly residents are particularly vulnerable.
Annual seasonal influenza vaccination is recommended to all healthcare workers to prevent illness among these workers, reduce absenteeism and, most importantly, to protect their patients.
A number of outbreaks among healthcare facilities in recent years have all been characterised by low uptake among health workers in these units, according to the disease watchdog.