Four-fold rise in flu cases prompts warning from HSE

Health Protection Surveillance Centre says flu circulating but vaccines offer good protection

This winter’s flu season has begun in earnest, with a four-fold increase in the number of patients attending GPs for influenza-like illness. Photograph: Thinkstock

This winter’s flu season has begun in earnest, with a four-fold increase in the number of patients attending GPs for influenza-like illness. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

This winter’s flu season has begun in earnest, with a four-fold increase in the number of patients attending GPs for influenza-like illness.

The HSE says flu is now actively circulating in the community and has advised people in at-risk groups to get vaccinated against the disease.

The number of cases of influenza-like illness reported by family doctors last week jumped from 11.3 per 100,000 population to 48.5, above the threshold level for the spead of the disease, according to the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

“Influenza-like illness increased in all age groups but particularly in those aged less than 65 years. Although flu is starting to circulate, flu activity remains at moderate levels,” said HPSC director, Dr Darina O’Flanagan.

She said prevention was better than cure, and the increase in flu activity made it even more important to get the flu jab if you belong to an at-risk group such as over-65s, people with long-term conditions, pregnant women, morbidly obese people, healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes.

So far this winter, 76 patients have been hospitalised for flu and four have died, according to the HPSC’s latest weekly report. It says the strains of flue seen to date this season are genetically similar to those included in this year’s vaccines.

Symptoms of flu include high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat. Flu comes on more suddenly than the common cold, which tends to involve a runny nose and a normal temperature.

The medical advice for people who get flu is to stay at home, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol to ease symptoms. Sufferers are advised to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze.