Swine flu death toll increases to 20 this winter
The official death toll from swine flu this winter has risen to 20, with doctors and hospitals continuing to report outbreaks of the illness.
There have been 32 laboratory-confirmed deaths from the flu virus so far this winter, with most other patients dying from the B strain.
However, the true number of flu-related deaths is believed to be much higher as not everyone that dies with a flu-like illness is tested. They are also often a result of complications secondary to the patient's main underlying illness.
The flu is continuing to lead to hospitalisations and intensive care admissions, contributing to emergency-department overcrowding. It also contributed to higher than normal numbers dying in the first and last weeks of January.
These deaths are estimated by comparing deaths during this time with preceding time periods in spring and autumn.
The majority of these excess winter deaths are caused by the flu and diseases of the cardiovascular system, such as stroke and heart attack.
Ireland is not alone in being hit by swine flu. It is also the most prevalent form of the virus in most European countries.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said it has been responsible for a large number of severe cases, especially in intensive care units, with serious illness in at-risk groups and otherwise healthy young adults.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre in Ireland reported that flu activity in Ireland was at moderate levels in the week ending February 28.
There were 18 confirmed flu cases admitted to critical care units over the week and three outbreaks reported, mostly in nursing homes.