The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Friday) urged people in high-risk groups to get vaccinated against influenza, as the number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Ireland has increased in the last week.
ILI rates have risen from 20.5 per 100,000 population to 32.4 per 100,000 population during the second week of February and are now above threshold levels which means that flu is actively circulating in the community, according to HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Joan O’Donnell.
“It is still not too late for people who are at risk of the complications of flu to get vaccinated against the disease if they have not already done so. The vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for all people in at risk groups, and from pharmacists for everyone aged 65 and over. An administration charge may apply to people who don’t hold medical cards or GP visit cards.
High-risk groups 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, neuro-developmental disorders and diabetes
- Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment
· 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 risk groups.
"The symptoms of influenza usually develop over a matter of a few hours and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat. This is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature.
“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 categories should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms.
"Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and cleaning your hands as soon as you can are important measures in helping prevent the spread of germs and reducing the risk of transmission," added Dr O’Donnell.
ILI rates give an indication of the overall level of influenza activity in Ireland and are reported by selected GPs as part of a surveillance system jointly run by the Irish College of General Practitioners, the National Virus Reference Laboratory and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
The weekly influenza surveillance reports and further information on influenza and flu vaccine are available from the HPSC by clicking here.