Saturday 19 October 2019

Winter flu death toll rises to 59 - but season was not as severe as last year

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

At least 59 people died from the flu during winter as late January and early February saw the highest number of deaths.

Those weeks saw excess winter deaths due to flu and other illnesses. The majority of these deaths were caused by diseases of the cardiovascular system, such as stroke and heart attack, as well as respiratory diseases, particularly flu.

Although this winter's flu death count compares to 53 last winter, overall this season has not been as severe.

The flu jab this time was more effective in protecting against the main virus circulating, which was swine flu. Last winter, two strains of flu - A and B - were circulating.

Excess winter mortality figures are estimated by comparing deaths during this time period with preceding time periods, April to July and August to November.

The cold has various physiological effects on the body that may lead to death in vulnerable people.

Research has associated a colder home temperature with increased blood pressure.

A further study showed that the cold causes the blood to become thicker, which could lead to blood clots.

More excess deaths can occur in women over 85.

The cold also lowers immune resistance to respiratory infections.

Flu continues to wane and is expected to circulate at low levels in the coming weeks, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The highest hospitalisation rates continue to be seen in those aged less than five years old.

So far this flu season, at least 2,637 confirmed hospitalised cases were reported to the watchdog. Some 120 people with confirmed flu had to be admitted to critical care units.

So far the majority of flu deaths were in people aged 65 years and older.

Irish Independent

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