`Plenty of flu' about but no need for panic
The incidence of flu appears to be rising since Christmas, according to GPs, but the State has escaped lightly so far compared with the UK.
Dr Declan Murphy, a Kilkenny GP, said he had seen "plenty of flu" in the last few days and it appeared to be "clinical influenza". Patients were feverish, with bad aches and pains and respiratory symptoms. "Above all they were feeling weak. If the house went on fire they would have trouble making it out. I made house calls to people who were just not able to make it into the surgery," he said.
In the UK, Mr Simon Barber, a spokesman for the Public Health Laboratory Service, said that up to December 27th an average of 80 cases per 100,000 people a week in England and Wales were recorded.
"I would imagine there was a slight under-representation of illnesses over the Christmas break, so it may well rise in the next few weeks," he said. "It is very hard to say, but the latest figures show the average rate of GP consultations for flu is 102 per 100,000."
A spokesman for the Royal College of General Practitioners' flu monitoring unit said that while there were a lot of people with flu in the UK, the level for the time of year was not exceptional.
The head of the Virus Reference Laboratory in UCD, Prof Billy Hall, said the lab had seen no significant increase in recent weeks. Doctors had not sent in patient samples for analysis, which was important in identifying the strain of flu, he said.
In west Cork, Dr Matt Murphy has been seeing patients with a "low-grade flu" in recent days. "They have nasty coughs, headaches and aches and pains," said the Bantry GP. "There is definitely a bit more flu than usual about. There are a lot of sick kids who are very wheezy."
Dr Val Lawlor, a GP in Kilmuck ridge, Co Wexford, said he had seen eight patients with flu yesterday - "fairly average for the time of year" - and while he was busy it was not near epidemic proportions. Dublin GP Dr Tony Hynes said he was seeing patients of all ages with flu but it was "endemic rather than epidemic".