Four people die after suspected 'swine flu' outbreak
Up to four people have died following a new suspected outbreak of the H1N1 flu strain also known as the swine flu, according to the HSE.
The HSE has confirmed it has identified the H1N1 flu strain in a number of patients and warned it expects more people will be affected in the coming weeks.
Signs of the virus vary in severity and include symptoms ranging from aches and pains and a chesty cough to sneezing or a loss of appetite.
However, in more severe cases symptoms can escalate leading to more serious conditions such as pneumonia.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, the HSE’s Assistant National Director for Public Health said the strain had been identified in up to four people who had died and is likely to be discovered in more patients in the coming wees.
“There are two types when we talk about this virus – A and B – this year we have the A strain which has a particular predilection for some people under 65,” Dr Kelleher told Independent.ie
“It has a predilection for people who have a previous medical condition like asthma or respiratory disease and for pregnant women. What we see is people with diseases end up in ICU or on a ventilator."
Dr Kelleher confirmed at least two people have died from the virus, with two more suspected deaths as a result of the flu.
The HSE uses a scale to determine when the flu season fully begins which incorporates a number of elements including a range of data.
The most recent indication is that the scale has reached over half way to surpassing the flu season threshold sparking fears that flu season, where hundreds become sick with the virus, is only days out.
“I can see in the data I have available that it is beginning to rise that it almost certainly will go above a threshold that we have got that says it is flu season.
“It is a number we use which is 17 to indicate that threshold and we are at 11 now,” Dr Kelleher added.
“The flu seasons last anywhere from six to 12 weeks, up to 18 weeks. Last year it was 17 weeks which was really very long."
Dr Kelleher said hundreds die from the virus every year and has made a plea for members of the public to get the flu jab and limit their contact with the public if the notice any of the symptoms arise.
The HSE website undertheweather.ie has a list of tips and advice for anyone who wants to prepare or prevent themselves from catching the flu.