Hospitals cut back visiting hours after increase in flu cases

Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, and Kerry General Hospital have reduced visiting hours

‘It is still not too late for people who are at risk of the complications of flu to get vaccinated against the disease if they have not already done so,’ said Dr Joan O’Donnell, specialist in public health medicine. Photograph:  Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

‘It is still not too late for people who are at risk of the complications of flu to get vaccinated against the disease if they have not already done so,’ said Dr Joan O’Donnell, specialist in public health medicine. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 


Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and Kerry General Hospital have cut visiting hours in efforts to prevent the spread of influenza as the number of cases begins to rise.

Management at Beaumont said it had noted an increase in the number of patients presenting with flu symptoms and was forced to restrict access as a result. So far during the current flu season, five people have died in the State although this is not thought to be a particularly high level of fatalities from an illness that claims a number lives every year.

Last winter, there were 16 deaths, up from 13 the previous year but down considerably on 38 in the winter season between 2010 and 2011.

According to the latest official statistics, 26 confirmed hospitalised influenza cases were reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) during week six of this year, bringing the total number to 82.

Beaumont Hospital will allow only one visitor per patient on “essential” visits between 6pm and 8pm. The Health Service Executive, through the HPSC, has continued its campaign to get people vaccinated, particularly among the “at risk” group. The HSPC said late last week that “influenza-like illness”, used as an indicator for rates of actual influenza, is on the increase.

“Rates have risen from 20.5 per 100,000 [of] population to 32.4 per 100,000 [of] population during the second week of February and are now above threshold levels, which means that flu is actively circulating in the community,” said Dr Joan O’Donnell, specialist in public health medicine.

“It is still not too late for people who are at risk of the complications of flu to get vaccinated against the disease if they have not already done so. The vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for all people in at-risk groups and from pharmacists.”

Those who qualify as being at-risk include anyone aged 65 and over, people with chronic illnesses that require regular medical check-ups and those with conditions that affect the immune system.