The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has 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 past week.

ILI rates have risen from 15.5 per 100,000 to 29.0 per 100,000 population during the second week of January and are now above threshold levels which means that flu is actively circulating in the community, according to HPSC director, Dr Darina O’Flanagan.

Although flu is starting to circulate, flu levels currently remain relatively low.  Despite this, we have had a number of confirmed influenza outbreaks, mainly in residential facilities for the elderly and disabled. Influenza is expected to increase over the coming weeks and circulate for at least the next 6-8 weeks. 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.
 

“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.”

At-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 greater than 40

Residents of nursing homes, old people's homes and other long stay facilities

Health care workers and carers of those in risk groups
 

Most people, unless they are in an at risk group, can get better themselves at home. Advice, tips, information and videos on getting over flu and other common illnesses are available at a new HSE website, http://www.undertheweather.ie

"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. GPs may wish to prescribe antivirals for those presenting with influenza in the high risk groups.

"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’Flanagan.

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