Updated flu map reveals the areas of Ireland hit hardest by virus
The latest flu map from the HSE reveals that the virus is now widespread across the country.
Around 20,000 people with flu and other respiratory viruses swamped GP surgeries last week and while flu rates have risen they may have peaked, the HSE said.
However, it is likely to continue to circulate at intense levels for another month or more.
The latest flu map published by the HSE reveals that all parts of the country, except the Midlands region, were reporting 'widespread activity' of the virus during the first week of 2018.
The contrast to the image from week 52 shows how instances of the virus has spread in just a week.
The HSE said that officially the number of deaths from flu is still “under ten” but it will take time to determine the real toll the virus has had on patients.
Although numbers of cases are high it is not regarded as a severe season.
Hospitals, which are continuing to struggle with the trolley crisis, saw a surge in flu cases, said HSE 's head of public health Dr Kevin Kelleher.
Around 500 patients with flu and other respiratory viruses were admitted last week to the eight hospitals across the country which are monitored to measure activity.
However, this does not capture the flu-stricken patients in some forty other hospitals, he added.
The highest rate of flu is now seen in adults, compared to early January when children were most affected.
Dr Cillian de Gascun of the UCD Virus Reference Laboratory as the AH3N2 strain, popularly known as Aussie flu, is proving a threat but the dominant risk is a B strain, not covered by the standard flu vaccine.
Although it does not cover this strain, the advice is to still get the flu vaccine for the best protection.
HSE head of acute hospitals Dr Liam Woods indicated that many hospitals will not be able to carry out regular surgery on waiting list patients until the end of the month.
All urgent surgery is going ahead.