Influenza rates double in past week and expected to rise

People with flu like symptoms advised to get vaccine from GP or pharmacist

The rate of influenza has doubled in the past week with older people at greater risk of contracting the predominant flu strain AH3. Photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA

The rate of influenza has doubled in the past week with older people at greater risk of contracting the predominant flu strain AH3. Photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA

 

People with bad colds and flu symptoms have been urged to get the flu vaccination as soon as possible as levels of influenza and respiratory illness continue to rise throughout the country.

The latest influenza report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows the rate of the influenza like illness has doubled in the past week with older people at greater risk of contracting the predominant flu strain AH3. The illness rate is expected to further rise in the coming weeks.

Hospitalisation for influenza and outbreaks of the flu in community hospitals and residential care facilities have also continued to rise. According to the latest statistics, there have been a total of 96 people hospitalised for influenza so far in the 2016/2017 winter season, with the majority of those hospitalised aged 65 years and older. Eight cases of the flu strain have been admitted to critical care units and there has been one confirmed case of death from the strain to date this season.

HSE specialist in public health medicine Dr John Cuddihy urged people in high risk groups to get the flu vaccine as the current flu season has yet to hit its peak.

“The number of people confirmed with influenza last week was 234 which was double the rate the week before,” he told the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.

He advised anyone suffering from flu like symptoms – coughing, sneezing, aches and pains – to stay out of circulation, rest, drink lots of fluids and take paracetemol.

“There is a new vaccine every year the constituents of which vary every time. That’s why people should get the vaccine every year.

“Influenza can be life threatening so it is important to get vaccinated.”

Dr John Cuddihy said it can take two weeks for the vaccine to ‘set in’ and he encouraged people to get the vaccine if they are in an at risk group and not to think that the flu season was over.

“It is not too late for this season.

“Each year it can be difficult to tell when it has peaked, but it has not happened yet this year.”

People with flu-like symptoms are advised to get the vaccine from their local GP or pharmacist. They should drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost from sweating, get lots of rest and eat healthily. If someone is at risk of complications from flu they may need to see a doctor for specific anti-viral medicines.

However, most people will not need to see the doctor or attend an emergency department as most flu symptoms can be treated at home, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The undertheweather.ie website provides users with detailed descriptions of the different flu symptoms and what to do should an adult or child become ill. It highlights that the real flu is not actually that common and most people with symptoms will usually just have a cold or a viral upper respiratory tract infection.

The main difference between the flu and the common cold is that the symptoms of flu come on very quickly and that those with the flu will suffer from severe muscle aches and a high fever.