WINTER flu has taken a grip on the people across the country with the HSE now warning those at risk to get vaccinated immediately.
The number of cases, particularly for young children and teenagers, is on the increase and has passed the normal threshold prompting the HSE to issue to the public health warning.
It is hitting all age groups but particularly 5-14 year olds and four cases were reported during the past week in those under four years of age.
GPs around the country are reporting a rate of almost 25 cases per 100,000 population, which is a steep rise from the 11 per 100,000 population the previous week.
A HSE spokesman said the strains of flu in circulation were mainly Influenza B and some Influenza A.
He explained that the figures show the outbreak now has a firm grip in the general community.
Director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, Dr Darina O’Flanagan, has urged pregnant woman, children with chronic illness, the over 65s and anyone with a low immunity to get vaccinated.
The at-risk group also includes children or teenagers on long-term aspirin therapy, residents of nursing and old people’s homes or other long stay facilities, health care workers and carers.
“Health professionals should use antiviral drugs for the treatment or prevention of influenza in high-risk groups,” she says.
“The symptoms of influenza usually develop over a matter of a few hours and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat.
“This is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature.
She advises anyone with flu to stay at home rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms.
“Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and washing your hands with soap and water as soon as you can are important measures in helping prevent the spread of flu,” adds Dr O’Flanagan.