Flu kills 44 as hundreds wait on trolleys in hospitals

HSE appeals to university students to get mumps vaccine before returning to college

There were 518 patients on trolleys in emergency departments or on wards on Friday morning, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. File photograph: Alan Betson

There were 518 patients on trolleys in emergency departments or on wards on Friday morning, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

Forty-four people have died from the flu this winter, with those aged over 65 the worst hit by the virus.

Last week 609 people were hospitalised with the illness, with the highest rates among those aged over 65 and children under five. A total of five influenza-associated deaths were reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre during the second week of January.

Meanwhile, there were 518 patients waiting on trolleys in hospital emergency departments or on wards on Friday morning, according to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

The INMO said 363 people were waiting on trolleys in emergency departments, while 155 were in wards elsewhere in the hospital.

Cork University Hospital had the highest number of patients on trolleys (55), followed by University Hospital Galway (49) and University Hospital Limerick (46).

When is the ‘flu season’?

Dr John Cuddihy, director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said flu rates had been declining since a peak during December but were due to rise again in the coming weeks.

“Flu season runs from October to May so it is not too late for people to get the flu vaccine,” he said.

“There have been 44 flu-associated deaths to date. We would expect to see between 250 and 500 flu-related deaths each season and this could rise to 1,000 deaths if it was a particularly bad season.

“Our advice for those who have the flu is to stay at home until their symptoms have gone, which would usually be after five to seven days, in order to avoid spreading the virus to other people.

“At-risk groups, such as those with a chronic illness, a low immune system and pregnant women, if they believe they have flu symptoms they should make contact with their GP by phone rather than going into the surgery.”

Separately, the HSE’s assistant national director for health protection, Dr Kevin Kelleher, has issued an appeal to university students to get the mumps vaccine before they return to college.

Dr Kelleher said there had been a rise in the number of young people contracting the disease over the past 15-18 months.