Pregnant woman is fighting swine flu as virus kills four others
Swine flu has claimed the lives of four people already this winter and is now the dominant form of virus circulating, it emerged yesterday.
A pregnant mother-of-two is among three patients fighting the swine flu in Wexford General Hospital, prompting public health doctors to urge people to get the flu jab.
The mother is now recovering and responding to treatment after being admitted to intensive care.
Dr Darina O' Flanagan, head of the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), said the current flu vaccine offered protection against swine flu.
This is in contrast to the winter of 2009 when swine flu reached pandemic levels because there was initially no vaccine against it.
Dr O' Flanagan said overall flu levels, including the B strain, were continuing to rise and likely to persist for four to five more weeks.
"If someone got vaccinated now it would take effect in 10 to 14 days," she said.
So far this winter seven deaths have been linked to flu.
A spokesman for Wexford General Hospital said three patients with swine flu had to be admitted, although most who contract the virus do not need to be hospitalised.
"There is no outbreak of flu in Wexford General and no patient has acquired flu in there to date," he said.
It is understood that one of the patients started getting treatment for the flu when admitted last week. A second patient with swine flu was later admitted after being brought by ambulance from Wexford town.
Pregnant women and children under two are particularly at risk from swine flu. In pregnancy the immune system is naturally suppressed, which leaves women at higher risk of developing complications.
The complications can include pneumonia, difficulty breathing and dehydration.
These are more likely to happen from week 27 until the birth and up to two weeks after the baby is born.
The disease watchdog said that 219 patients have been hospitalised with flu so far this winter and 88 of these had swine flu. Eleven patients have ended up in critical care. The HSE provides the flu vaccine free of charge for those in the at-risk groups. Symptoms of swine flu include a sudden fever - a temperature of 38C or above, tiredness, aching muscles, joint pain and headache.