Number of flu season deaths rises to eight

HSE figures show 34 people were hospitalised last week with confirmed influenza

The HSE are urging the public to get vaccinated as flu cases continue to rise. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

The HSE are urging the public to get vaccinated as flu cases continue to rise. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

Fri, Feb 21, 2014, 13:45

Three more people have died from flu related illnesses and the number of cases is continuing to rise rapidly. Some hospitals have banned visitors in an effort to control the spread.

The latest HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre figures show that eight people have died in total in this flu season. Six of those who died were over the age of 65 and one was a toddler.

Five children aged under 4-years have needed to go into an intensive care unit in hospital and there has been a total of 31 admissions with flu symptoms, the centre said.

A visitor ban has been introduced at Tralee Community Nursing Unit,and Kerry General Hospital, while Beaumont Hospital in Dublin has put strict visitor restrictions in in place.

Restrictions have also been introduced at Cork University Hospital this week following a case of swine flu.

There were 34 people with confirmed influenza hospitalised last week, up from 26 the week before, and bringing the total to 118.

The number of reported cases has risen by 31 per cent (42.5 cases reported per 100,000 of the population) in the week from February 10th to 16th. This came after a 58 per cent increase a week earlier. The national threshold is 21 cases per 100,000 of the population.

Kerry Hospital general manager TJ O’Connor appealed to people not to visit the hospital if that have experienced influenza like symptoms in the inerest of patient care.

Irish Pharmacy Union president Rory O’ Donnell said getting vaccinated was the best way to reduce the risk of catching the flu. “Flu is an extremely contagious respiratory illness and can be quite serious, occasionally even fatal, particularly for patients with serious health conditions,” he said.

Flu symptoms can include a fever, runny nose and sore throat, severe headaches, dry coughs and chest pains.

Vaccinations are free for people in the high risk groups such as children with chronic illness, people older than 65, pregnant women, morbidly obese people and people with lowered immunity from disease or treatment.

Research by the HSE estimates that over the last eight flu seasons between 200 and 500 people in Ireland died each year from flu related illnesses. It said up to 1,000 people could die in a particularly severe flu season.