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According to the Executive, the current flu season spiked over Christmas and the New Year and is now at levels significantly ahead of those experienced last year.
The HSE advised that children and older people are particularly vulnerable to viral infection and represent the vast majority of flu cases this season.
The latest figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), show that to date this flu season, a total of 1,373 confirmed flu hospitalised cases have been notified to the HPSC and 45 flu cases have been admitted to Intensive Care.
There have also been 22 flu deaths to date this season. Of these deaths, 17 occurred in adults aged 65 years and older, two occurred in children aged under 15 and three were in adults aged between 35 and 64.
There have been 22 flu deaths to date this flu season.
The HSE’s Dr Kevin Kelleher, Assistant National Director of Public and Child Health, said, “We know this year’s vaccine is a good match for the current strain of flu and the best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated. Flu can be a very serious and sometimes deadly disease.
“People need to remember that flu causes severe illness and death in Ireland every year. That is why those who are most vulnerable to the complications of flu need to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is the only defence against flu, yet every year many people in the at-risk groups fail to get vaccinated and so put themselves at risk of serious illness or even death.
“The vaccine reduces infection and associated illnesses and hospitalisation. Flu is very infectious and can cause potentially serious illnesses especially for older people, those who have a chronic illness, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. Seasonal flu vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy and also protects the baby. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus and all those at risk should get vaccinated as soon as possible this year to make sure that they are protected. “
In an effort to curtail the spread of flu the HSE is also advising parents not to send their children back to school if they have flu like illness or any of the associated symptoms i.e. a high temperature, aches and pains or chesty cough.
Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms. Anyone in one of the high-risk groups should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms. If you need to visit your GP or the Emergency Department, please phone first to explain that you might have flu.
" The flu vaccine is the only defence against flu, yet every year many people in the at-risk groups fail to get vaccinated and so put themselves at risk of serious illness or even death ."
The flu vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for people in at risk groups, and from pharmacists, for everyone in at risk groups aged 10 years and over. An administration charge may apply to people who don’t hold medical cards or GP visit cards.
At-risk groups for the vaccine are:
• All those aged 65 years and older
• People including children with chronic illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, chronic neurological disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders and diabetes
• Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment and all cancer patients
• All pregnant women. The vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy.
• Those with morbid obesity i.e. Body Mass Index ≥40
• Residents of nursing homes, old people’s homes and other long stay facilities
• Health care workers and carers of those in at-risk groups.
For more see the HSE self-care website www.undertheweather.ie which provides tips and advice in relation to common winter illnesses, including flu.
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