THE number of people hospitalised with the flu is on the rise, including three who have been admitted to critical care.
The majority of those hospitalised have been hit with influenza B, which may cause a less severe reaction than the type A virus but occasionally can be very harmful.
The latest figures for the first week in January show 30 laboratory-confirmed flu cases were reported and 11 were hospitalised, compared to one over Christmas.
"Two confirmed influenza B cases were admitted to critical care during the first week of January," the report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said.
There have been no official reports of deaths due to the flu yet this winter.
The spread of flu is still far from the crisis levels of the virus which are affecting New York and other parts of the US where an emergency has been declared.
In New York, 19,128 cases have been confirmed this winter, a jump from a total of 4,404 last year.
Meanwhile, many hospital emergency departments here are struggling to cope with the number of patients on trolleys suffering from respiratory illnesses and other winter-related conditions.
There were 345 patients on trolleys yesterday morning with 42 waiting for a bed in Limerick Regional, the worst-hit hospital.
A spokesman for Limerick Regional said: "The most severe surge in pressure on beds at the hospital following the Christmas holidays is being experienced today with a total of 19 patients in the emergency department now waiting for beds compared to 42 at 9 am."
He added: "The hospital's contingency plan has been put into operation to cope with the demand for beds and members of the public have been asked not to attend at the emergency department unless it is absolutely necessary.
"All GPs in the mid-west have been informed of the situation and elective surgery has been cancelled.
"Extra rounds are being carried out to free up beds and some patients are being moved from Dooradoyle to vacant beds in Nenagh, St John's and Croom.
"The surge in demand is being ascribed to a number of factors, nororvirus, which is widespread in the community, respiratory ailments and other complaints.
"Eight beds at the hospital are blocked as a result of norovirus.
"A full ban on visiting remains in place in Dooradoyle. Visiting to all wards at the hospital is prohibited with the exception of critically ill patients but in no circumstances should anyone attempt to visit a critically ill patient without first contacting nursing staff.
"Parents and guardians only will be permitted in the Children's Ark and children should be kept away from all areas of the hospital."