Sunday 27 May 2018

20,000 people with flu and respiratory viruses visited GPs in one week but the worst is over, HSE claims

Ireland is in the throes of flu season
Ireland is in the throes of flu season

Eilish O Regan

Ireland will be flu-hit for weeks to come although the worst may be over, health officials said today.

Around 20,000 people with flu and other respiratory viruses swamped GP surgeries last week.

Flu rates have risen but may have peaked, the HSE said.

However, it is likely to continue to circulate at intense levels for another month or more.

The HSE said that officially the number of deaths from flu is still “under ten” but it will take time to determine the real toll the virus has had on patients.

Although numbers of cases are high it is not regarded as a severe season.

Dr Kevin Kelleher, Assistant National Director for Public Health and Child Health
Dr Kevin Kelleher, Assistant National Director for Public Health and Child Health

Hospitals, which are continuing to struggle with the trolley crisis, saw a surge in flu cases, said HSE 's head of public health Dr Kevin Kelleher.

Around 500 patients with flu and other respiratory viruses were admitted  last week to the eight hospitals across the country which are monitored to measure activity.

However, this does not capture the flu-stricken  patients in some forty other hospitals, he added.

Read More: Children under nine should get two doses of vaccine to 'protect those around them'

The highest rate of flu is now seen in adults, compared to early January when children were most affected.

Dr Cillian de Gascun of the UCD Virus Reference Laboratory as the AH3N2 strain, popularly known as Aussie flu, is proving a threat but the dominant risk is a B strain, not covered by the standard flu vaccine.

Although it does not cover this strain, the advice is to still get the flu vaccine for the best protection.

HSE head of acute hospitals Dr Liam Woods indicated that many hospitals will not be able to carry out regular surgery on waiting list patients until the end of the month.

All urgent surgery is going ahead.

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