People at risk from flu and respiratory illness are being warned to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible as levels have almost doubled over the past two weeks.
The HSE have reported that 46.7 people per 100,000 have been affected by influenza and similar illnesses, compared with 25.8 for the previous week. This is expected to increase even more in the coming weeks.
Furthermore, there have been several ILI outbreaks in both residential care facilities and in acute hospital settings throughout the country, but this is particularly in the Dublin area.
The predominant flu strain is AH3 which is affecting mostly older people rather than younger age groups. Those at-risk from flu ae being advised to get the job from their local GP or pharmacist.
While it can often be difficult to tell the difference between the common cold and flu, flu is a much more severe illness than a cold. Flu symptoms, particularly fever and muscle aches, tend to come on suddenly, whereas a cold usually starts gradually with symptoms of a sore throat and a blocked or runny nose.
The flu virus can be passed on by coughing or sneezing and can be spread from 1-2 days before you develop symptoms and for up to a week after symptoms develop.
If you feel that you have picked up the flu, usually you do not need to see your doctor or attend an emergency department as most flu can be treated at home. It is advised that you drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost from sweating. Get lots of rest and eat healthily.
However, if you are at risk of complications from flu you may need to see a doctor as there are specific anti-viral medicines available which you might need. These work best if started within 48 hours of flu symptoms.
The website www.undertheweather.ie gives a range of practical advice on how to mind yourself or your family if you feel the onset of flu-like symptoms.
Ann Marie Horan, Pharmacist and member of the Executive Committee of the Irish Pharmacy Union, said, “the flu vaccination is the best way to reduce the chances that a patient will get the flu and spread it to others. We would encourage patients, especially at-risk patients, who include elderly people, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses, to visit their local pharmacy to get the flu vaccine now. It is not too late. The service is available free of charge from pharmacists to anyone who holds a medical card.”
The HSE has previously warned that flu could cause up to 1,000 deaths if Ireland has a severe winter. Research has shown that the flu vaccine cuts the risk of death from influenza for elderly patients and reduces the chance of hospitalisation. One person has died due to influenza this winter, according to the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre.Tags: