Parents warned to keep children with flu-like symptoms home from school by leading health official
Parents with children with flu-like symptoms were warned today to keep them at home when schools open next week to combat an expected surge in influenza infections in the coming fortnight.
A higher proportion of children than normal are falling victim to the flu this year.
Top officials from the Health Service Executive said the rise in the numbers of people with flu was having a significant knock-on effect on the high numbers on trolleys in the nation's hospitals.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, assistant national director for public health and child health, said flu figures were expected to peak within a couple of weeks.
"When schools go back next week, there may be a leap in the numbers with flu," said Dr Kelleher.
To combat the expected surge in numbers, he appealed to parents to keep sick children at home.
He also declared adults with flu-like symptoms should not tough it out and go to work where they would spread the virus.
Mr Damien McCallion, HSE national director with responsibility for the winter initiative, said much was being done to reduce the high numbers of patients ending up on hospital trolleys this winter.
He said 150 new hospital beds were being added to the national system, most of them in the first three months of this year.
The top officials acknowledged that there have been children waiting on trolleys for beds this week.
But it was "very rare" that children end up on trolleys, said Mr Liam Woods, national director of acute services.
Dr Colm Henry, HSE national clinical advisor for acute services, said it was particularly "poignant" that children were on trolleys and it "strikes a chord" with the public. But he said it was also very serious for older people who were ill and in need of a bed to be confined to trolleys.
Some 12 children were reported to be on trolleys this morning, two of them were reportedly on trolleys for more than nine hours at Crumlin Hospital.