Warning that other viruses pose risk as flu death toll hits 55
Nearly one in five patients diagnosed with flu last week had another respiratory virus, it emerged yesterday.
The death toll from flu this season rose to 55, with people over the age of 65 suffering the most fatalities.
"Many had underlying illnesses, but not all of them," said Dr John Cuddihy, HSE public health specialist, who said the flu has led to a number of child deaths.
However, there is also a high rate of other respiratory viruses circulating aside from the flu.
This trend us pushing up levels of infection overall, according to Dr Cillian de Gascun, head of the Virus Reference Laboratory at UCD.
Children aged five to 14 have suffered significant levels of flu-like illnesses this winter.
Among the other illnesses circulating this winter is the adenovirus, which often infects the airways and intestinal tract and shares several symptoms with the flu, including congestion, sore throat, cough and fever.
Flu levels have begun to dip but it is expected they will continue to circulate for six more weeks at least.
It means the trolley crisis will continue to rage in hospitals for most of February after last month's record overcrowding.
There were 529 patients enduring delays for a hospital bed across the country yesterday morning.
The Government's stewardship of the health service and inability to tackle the blight of overcrowding sparked further concern, as patients faced into another month of chaos.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher said that across 22 days in January, 12,316 people were left lying on trolleys instead of being put in a bed on a hospital ward.
"People are sick and tired of excuses from Minister Simon Harris and Fine Gael on the poor state of the health service.
"They have had seven years in office and at every turn their attempts to improve the delivery of services have failed," he said.
He warned the "minister needs to focus on this over the next number of months and not be totally distracted by other concerns".
Mr Harris said that the upcoming capital plan would include provision for extra hospital beds.
Mr Kelleher said: "Minister Harris is no longer the new boy in health - 18 months in, he still hasn't realised that he is the minister."