HSE urges Limerick public to get vaccine following 'Aussie flu' reports

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

There have been 53 cases of the flu in the Mid-West since the first detection this season on September, the HSE confirmed to the Leader this week

There have been 53 cases of the flu in the Mid-West since the first detection this season on September, the HSE confirmed to the Leader this week

AN EXPERT in public health in the Mid-West has said that the flu is “actively starting to circulate in the community”, following weeks of the virus’ outbreak in the region.

Since the first official detection of the flu on September 1 last, there have been 53 confirmed cases of the flu in the Mid-West region, the HSE confirmed.

And it is again urging those in “high-risk” groups to avail of the free flu jab, as the number of reported flu-like illnesses increased in the week before Christmas. HSE director of public health, Dr Mai Mannix said that it is not too late for at-risk people to get the vaccine from their local GP or pharmacist.

“Prevention is better than cure, and the increase in flu activity means it is even more important to get your flu jab if you are in an at-risk group. Initial indications so far point to more people in at risk groups and more healthcare workers getting the flu vaccine this year,” Dr Mannix said. 

This follows reports of a number of deaths in connection to the so-called “Aussie flu” strain this season in Ireland. 

The Australian flu season has been dominated by the influenza A subtype H3N2 co-circulating with influenza B, the HSE said. Influenza A mutates at a more rapid pace than influenza B, which can make communities vulnerable to a major outbreak.

The “Aussie flu” strain is similar to the H3N2 strain that dominated last year’s flu season in Ireland and Europe, the HSE said.

The HSE can confirm that there have been no fatalities as a result of the flu in the Mid-West this season. There was at least one fatality last season.

The HSE has said that this season’s flu jab “appears to be a moderate to good match for circulating virus strains, depending on the [Aussie flu] strain”.

A spokesperson added: “Vaccine effectiveness estimates, which provide an indication of how well the vaccine provides protection against influenza, will not be completed until the end of the influenza season.”

Visiting restrictions are also in place at University Hospital Limerick, following seven confirmed cases of the flu, with an additional number of other patients showing flu-like symptoms.

The hospital has advised people with the flu to contact their GP by phone in the first instance and avoid presenting at the emergency department in Dooradoyle.

“UHL has been experiencing a high number of patients attending the ED in recent days. We have admitted a lot of seriously ill patients recently, many of who remain in the ED awaiting a bed,” said a spokesperson this Tuesday. 

“As flu can be carried in to the hospital by patients or visitors, it is necessary with immediate effect to restrict visitors to one person per patient only and to remind members of the public that visiting hours are from 2pm to 4pm and from 6pm to 9pm only and are to be strictly adhered to," said a spokesperson. 

“Members of the public are reminded not to bring children on visits anywhere in the hospital. Parents visiting children are unaffected by the restrictions but are advised not to bring siblings. 

“We regret any inconvenience caused to patients and relatives by these necessary measures, which are being taken in the interests of patient care.”

The spokesperson has said that if you are seriously-ill or worried if your life is at risk, “the ED will assess and treat you as a priority”.