Health Minister urges people with flu to avoid GPs and hospitals due to overcrowding
Health Minister Simon Harris is urging people with suspected flu symptoms to avoid going to their GP or attend hospital unless absolutely necessary.
He made the plea this morning as the latest figures from the HSE reveal that half of the 187 patients on trolleys in A&E wards today are suffering from the flu, which has claimed 18 lives so far this season.
This is despite a 50pc increase in the number of people getting the flu jab this year compared to the numbers getting the vaccination over the past four years.
"The flu has come to Ireland much faster this year and has exceeded the peak in 2018," Mr Harris said following the weekly meeting of the HSE's Winter Oversight Group today.
Although health officials believe the number of flu cases is already higher now than the peak of 53 per 100,000 population which occurred at the height of flu season last year, Mr Harris said we are not out of the woods yet.
"We feel the flu may have peaked but we still have another five weeks of the flu season left.
"There's no doubt this will put significant pressure on our system," he said.
The number of patients on trolleys as of this morning is up 13.6pc over the same period last year. A total of 113,059 patients had been awaiting treatment on trolleys between January 1 and 8am yesterday.
The number of people awaiting treatment on trolleys over the past week is also up 118pc at 641 over the same period last year.
Due to the surge in numbers and highly contagious nature of influenza, Mr Harris urged anyone who suspects they have the flu to remain at home and ring their GP instead of attending the surgery.
However Dr Vida Hamilton, National Clinical Lead Acute Operations for the HSE, said severe symptoms of flu, such as confusion and the inability to speak properly, are indicative of a medical emergency that requires hospitalisation.