Friday 23 March 2018

Flu cases on the rise as four die from virus

Flu jab. Photo: PA
Flu jab. Photo: PA

Eilish O'Regant

Flu is on the rise and has already claimed four lives this winter, public health doctors warned yesterday.

The virus is now "actively circulating" and there has been a four fold-increase in patients complaining of flu attending their doctors since the beginning of January.

It is affecting all age groups, but particularly those aged under 65, said Dr Darina O'Flanagan, director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The agency reported that in the first week of the year there were six new confirmed flu cases with the influenza B strain dominating so far this winter.

Dr O'Flanagan said: "Although flu is starting to circulate, flu activity remains at moderate levels.

"Prevention is better than cure, and the increase in flu activity means it is even more important to get your flu jab if you are in an at-risk group. People in 'at risk' groups should get the vaccine as they are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu, and sadly many end up in hospital."

The hope is that flu levels will not be severe as outbreaks would impact on hospital emergency departments where overcrowding is easing.

Speaking in the Dáil, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said in the first couple of weeks of the year, emergency departments were seeing a 7pc increase in attendances, with some experiencing a surge of more than 17pc. It amounts to 3,000 patients attending daily.

Trolley figures nationally fell to 443 yesterday and some of the worst-hit hospitals experienced less overcrowding.

There is evidence that more patients on trolleys are being transferred to wards to free up space in emergency departments.

Irish Independent

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