Flu rates fall, but death toll rises to 70
The death toll from flu has climbed to 70 with the elderly worst hit by the virus, it has emerged.
The rate of flu circulating fell last week but the spread is still at a high level.
There is evidence the number of excess winter deaths among the elderly is high, which highlights the impact of the flu on people who are vulnerable due to underlying illness or other complications.
Disease watchdogs reported there were seven outbreaks last week, which is dramatically lower than the 37 recorded at the end of January. Young people aged five to 14 were particularly struck with flu-like illness last week.
The ongoing threat from the virus comes as the numbers of trolleys nationwide breached 500 again yesterday.
Health Minister Simon Harris said extra hospital beds had been opened but it also emerged that about 70 were closed due to infection control and staff shortages.
Figures supplied to Sinn Féin TD Louise O'Reilly revealed more than 11,000 patients over the age of 75 were left waiting more than 24 hours to be seen in A&Es last year.
Ms O'Reilly said: "It is unacceptable anyone is left waiting on a trolley for over 24 hours, but it is borderline criminal that elderly people are.
"The HSE has a 24-hour target for seeing those over the age of 75. This target in and of itself is far too low."