Three in hospital with influenza strain responsible for swine flu

Two other cases suspected in Wexford hospital, as HSE says H1N1 virus is circulating

Clinical director of Wexford General Hospital Dr Colm Quigley said the patients were stable and responding well to treatment. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Clinical director of Wexford General Hospital Dr Colm Quigley said the patients were stable and responding well to treatment. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Wexford General Hospital is treating five confirmed or suspected cases of the strain of influenza responsible for the 2009 swine flu outbreak, it has said.

Three patients have been confirmed as having the H1N1 strain of flu, which is circulating this year, while the results of tests carried out on two other patients are awaited.

Clinical director Dr Colm Quigley said the patients were stable and responding well to treatment.

Dr Quigley said the number of patients presenting with any strain of influenza had increased since Christmas, in line with national trends, but there was no suggestion flu levels were any higher than in previous winters.

He described the current level of H1N1 cases as unusual but added “we do see this from time to time”.

Although H1N1 is commonly referred to as swine flu, Dr Quigley pointed out that the cases being treated by the hospital were the result of human-to-human transmission and there was no cause for undue concern.

Healthy people would have no problem dealing with this strain of the flu and would usually be treated at home. However, at risk groups such as pregnant women, the over-65s and people with compromised immune systems required special attention.

He said that up to now, there was no evidence the cases in Wexford had been spread within the hospital, and that they had come from outside.

Increase

Flu activity has increased three-to-four-fold since the start of the year but is still at moderate levels, according to the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

Influenza A(H1)pdm09 – the strain related to the 2009 outbreak – and influenza B are both circulating, it said, resulting in increasing hospitalisations admissions to intensive care. The HPSC has recommended that antivirals be considered for the treatment or prevention of influenza in high-risk groups.

By the second week in January, 42 A(H1)pdm09 cases had been reported, according to the HPSC’s weekly surveillance report.

The virus H1N1, which causes what was commonly referred to in the past as “swine flu”, caused a pandemic in 2009.

Since then, this virus has continued to circulate in people in Europe and elsewhere, so that it is now a seasonal human flu virus, according to the World Health Organisation.

In 2009, the global population had little immunity to H1N1 because it was new, and it caused a global epidemic, with 100,000-400,000 estimated deaths that year. Now, the WHO says, H1N1 circulates as an annual flu virus.

The seasonal flu vaccine provides protection against H1N1, it says.

The flu virus can be highly contagious and can spread quickly from person to person through tiny drops in coughs and sneezes.