Flu infection and hospitalisations at record levels
Over 100 deaths as flu season persists for longer than expected, HSE says
The level of flu activity is one of the highest reported since surveillance began in 2000.
Flu activity in the Republic is currently at record levels, and more people have been hospitalised from the condition this season than ever before.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), which is the HSE’s specialist agency for the surveillance of communicable diseases, said flu activity has remained at “sustained high levels” for seven successive weeks.
There is “widespread activity” still being reported at a time when levels are normally expected to drop. The level of activity is one of the highest reported since surveillance began in 2000.
The sentinel GP influenza-like illness consultation rate increased slightly to 65.1 per 100,000 of the population during week seven, which ended on February 18th.
This compares to the updated rate of 63.7 per 100,000 of the population reported during the previous week. The highest consultation rates were reported in the 5-14 year age group at 82.2 per 100,000, an increase from 67.1 per 100,000 the previous week.
Flu hospitalisations continue to be reported at high levels with the highest rates seen in those aged 65 years and older.
To date this season, there have been 2,889 people hospitalised from flu, which is the highest number ever reported.
Some 134 confirmed flu cases have been admitted to critical care units so far, while 13 acute respiratory infection/flu outbreaks were reported during week seven.
To date this season, 102 flu related deaths have been reported. The HPSC said flu is expected to circulate for the coming weeks.
People in at risk groups are urged to get vaccinated against flu if they have not already done so. The flu vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for all people in at risk groups, and from pharmacists for everyone in at risk groups aged 18 years and over.
At risk groups are those aged 65 years or more; pregnant women, the morbidly obese; residents of nursing homes; anyone with a chronic illness requiring regular medical attention; health care workers and carers of those in at-risk groups.
Vaccination remains the most effective means of preventing infection by seasonal flu viruses and can reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalisation and death. The vaccine takes two weeks to take effect once received.
Separately, the number of people on trolleys reduced to 578 on Thursday, down from 588 on Wednesday. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said the hospital with the highest number of patients on a trolley was University Hospital Limerick with 49.