Flu cases rise and ‘significant’ wave could be coming, CMO warns

Infections are starting to take off all over Europe with RSV and Covid-19 also circulating

A significant wave of winter flu may be starting, chief medical officer Prof Breda Smyth has warned.

After a slow and gradual increase over the past six weeks, flu cases grew 16 per cent last week and hospitalisations were up 5 per cent, she said.

Flu infections are starting to take off all over Europe, she pointed out, heightening concern about the possible start of a significant wave of the virus.

Prof Smyth urged caution given that three viruses – RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), flu and Covid – are currently circulating.


She said this winter’s record wave of RSV cases may have passed its peak.

Last week, there was a 17 per cent reduction in RSV cases, from 734 the week before to 607. Hospitalisations fell 24 per cent.

Over 50 per cent of cases were in children aged under five, and half of these were in children aged under one. Over 1,500 people have been hospitalised with RSV this winter.

Prof Smyth urged parents to be alert to any change in the their baby’s symptoms and to seek medical attention if necessary.

The number of Covid cases has been stable but latest figures show a small increase. There were 349 people with Covid in hospital on Monday, up from 300 a fortnight earlier. Ten of these were in ICU, down from 12.

The positivity rate of cased confirmed by PCR testing, an indicator of the amount of infection in the community, has increased from 11.4 to 13.9 per cent over the past fortnight.

To curb the burden imposed by respiratory viruses, Prof Smyth urged people to wash their hands regularly, stay at home if they have symptoms and get vaccinated against the flu and Covid.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times