Wednesday 15 August 2018

Flu outbreak: Children and older people at risk from two strains of flu active in Ireland as number of hospitalisations set to rise

  • A small number of deaths linked to the flu have been recorded
  • Some 190 people have been hospitalised this flu season
  • At-risk groups urged to get vaccinated
  • Two strains active in Ireland
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Almost 200 people have been hospitalised with the flu this season amid warnings that both young and elderly people are at risks from two strains of the virus active here.

Dr Kevin Kelleher, Director of the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre said that around 190 people have been hospitalised so far this winter as flu season approaches its peak, and less than ten people have died as a result of flu.

He said he expects to see the number of presentations to hospital and doctors to rise in the coming weeks and urged people to get vaccinated.

"The week before cases saw half of nearly all the cases last year so it will keep on going this week.

"We'll expect to see the peak in the middle, the third or fourth week of this month," Dr Kelleher told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

At the moment in Ireland the main strains active are a virulent strain of influenza A and the B strain. The H3N2 subtype triggered two-and-a-half times the normal number of cases in Australia, leading to its nickname as the 'Aussie flu' however, Dr Kelleher said the flu was in Ireland last winter.

Last winter was the worst flu season in more than a decade, with the exception of swine flu, he added.

Elderly people are most at risk from this strain of flu, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

Meanwhile, influenza B predominantly affects younger people aged four to 15.

"A predominantly affects elderly and B predominantly affects young people," he said.

The flu vaccine if effective for the A virus but does not totally cover the B virus the HSE official said.

People who are considered high risk and who should get vaccinated are:

The HSE have said that high-risk groups are:

  • All those aged 65 years and older
  • People including children with chronic illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, chronic neurological disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders and diabetes
  • Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment and all cancer patients
  • All pregnant women. The vaccine can be given safely at any stage of pregnancy.
  • Those with morbid obesity i.e. Body Mass Index ≥ 40
  • Residents of nursing homes, old people's homes and other long stay facilities
  • Health care workers and carer’s of those in risk groups.

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