Warning amid seven more swine flu deaths
Seven more deaths from swine flu have been reported - although there are finally signs the winter outbreak is on the wane.
But a report from a disease prevention agency said recommendations for doctors to use antiviral medicines for patients with severe flu were not being followed.
There have been 25 reported flu deaths overall so far this winter, and the biggest threat remains swine flu.
Last week, flu-like illness was highest among the five to 14 year age group. However, the proportion of flu-related calls to GPs in the evenings and weekend fell slightly. There were 15 patients admitted to critical care units suffering from flu.
The resurgence of swine flu this winter has seen a rise in healthy children in particular being struck down with the illness.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said that so far, swine flu had characterised the 2015-2016 flu season in most countries in the region, causing more severe disease and deaths in people under 65 years of age.
When administered early, antivirals proved to be useful in the prevention and reduction of side-effects from flu.
Antivirals work by stopping the flu virus from multiplying in the body. They won't cure flu, but they may help to slightly reduce the length of the illness and relieve some symptoms.
The agency's chief scientist, Mike Catchpole, said: "In a season such as the one we are having at the moment, with healthcare services - including intensive care departments - under pressure due to severe flu cases, antivirals can play a vital role in helping to treat individuals and decrease pressures on healthcare systems.
"Expert opinion demonstrates that from a public health perspective, there are important benefits associated with the use of antivirals. They can help to reduce the length and severity of influenza disease. Most EU countries have policies in place for the use of antivirals, and the evidence from these reviews should further encourage prescribing doctors to put these policies into practice."
The flu has contributed to the ongoing trolley crisis in Irish hospital emergency departments. There were 424 patients on trolleys nationwide yesterday ,with 112 of these transferred from emergency departments to wards. The worst were the Mater Hospital in Dublin and Portlaoise Hospital.
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