independent

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Public urged to get flu vaccine

A new video aimed at promoting the uptake of the flu vaccine among healthcare workers features Mr Fergal Hickey, Consultant in Emergency Medicine and Deirdre Staunton, Resuscitation Training Officer from Sligo University Hospital.

The flu vaccine message is equally important for people who are vulnerable to the complications of flu such as the over 65s, those with a chronic illness, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.

Dr Anthony Breslin, Department of Public Health Medicine, HSE North West advised, "Flu cases are on the rise in Ireland, with a significant increase in cases of the H1N1 strain reported at hospitals in recent days. This is expected to continue over the next 6 to 8 weeks.

"The H1N1 strain is a very dangerous strain of influenza especially for at-risk groups, which may result in hospital admission, long-term medical complications or even death. This year's flu vaccine is a good match for circulating flu strains.

"The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus and all those at risk should get vaccinated as soon as possible.

"Seasonal flu vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy and also protects the baby".

The HSE provides the flu vaccine free of charge for all those in the at-risk groups.

The vaccine and consultation are free for those with a medical card or GP visit card.

Those without a medical card or GP visit card will be charged a consultation fee.

Those aged 18 years or older in the at-risk groups may attend either their GP or pharmacist for vaccination and those under 18 years should attend their GP.

Meanwhile, Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is reminding people in Ireland to be alert to the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia, after the Health Service Executive (HSE) has reported an increase in meningococcal disease (the leading cause of meningitis in Ireland) in recent weeks.

The HSE states that there have been 11 cases reported since week 52 of 2018. Sadly three of the people diagnosed with meningococcal disease have died.

This compares to five cases for the same time period last year.

In 2018, a total of 89 meningococcal cases were reported compared to 76 in 2017.

The recent cases are said to have affected all age groups, ranging from infants to elderly. The disease and deaths have not been caused by a single strain of meningococcal bacteria, but have been caused by multiple strains.

Diane McConnell, Regional Director at MRF said, "We are saddened to learn that a number of people have been affected by meningitis and septicaemia in recent weeks. Our thoughts and condolences go out to these individuals and their family and friends.

"Sadly we see more people affected by meningitis and septicaemia during winter, particularly around Christmas.

"This is thought to be due to the bacteria being able to invade the body more easily via the nose and throat at this time of year due to recent infection with flu virus, and because the bacteria can spread more rapidly when people spend longer periods indoors in close proximity.

"Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted from person to person by close contact with others such as coughing, sneezing, kissing etc, but usually we have to be in very close or regular contact with someone for the bacteria to pass between us. Even when this happens, most of us will not become ill because we have natural immunity.

"The bacteria cannot live longer than a few moments outside the human body, so they are not carried on things like clothes and bedding, toys or dishes."

Anyone with questions or concerns can call the free MRF helpline on 1800 41 33 44 (Ireland) or 080 8800 3344 (UK) or email helpline@meningitis.org or visit meningitis.org.

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