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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 11 November, 2019
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Eleven residents at Donegal nursing home suffering with flu symptoms

It appears that there may be a “slight mismatch” between the current flu vaccination and the circulating strain of the virus.

Image: leppre via Flickr/Creative Commons

THE HSE HAS confirmed that 11 people are still suffering from respiratory symptoms attributed to influenza at the Nazareth House nursing home in Donegal.

Investigations into the fatal influenza outbreak are continuing at the Fahan institution near Buncrana after six residents died over the past two weeks.

Speaking to Morning Ireland, Dr Peter Wright of the HSE North West said that there are concerns for a number of the patients who are “more ill than others”.

He said it was important to bear in mind that the population of the nursing home is very elderly and the affected patients are all in their 80s and 90s.

A team of doctors and nurses, as well as surveillance scientists, have been deployed to the private home in order to control and manage the outbreak, which was declared on Sunday evening.

All residents have now received preventative treatment for influenza. However, four of the six patients who died had been vaccinated against the virus.

Dr Wright noted that the immune response of elderly people is not always as effective as that of a younger person.

There is also a concern at European level that there may be a “slight mismatch” between the circulating strain of the virus and the protection that comes from this year’s vaccine, he added.

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) recently reported that the strain of A (H3) influenza circulating in the Northern Hemisphere – and which the patients at Nazareth tested positive for – has changed slightly and is an “imperfect fit” with the corresponding component of the seasonal influenza vaccine.

As this may have an impact on the overall effectiveness of the vaccine, it is being investigated further by European authorities and the WHO.

However, Dr Wright said that he would encourage people to continue to get vaccinated as it still overs the best protection against influenza.

The HSE were only informed of the outbreak on Sunday evening, after five patients had already died. Although Dr Wright was not keen to criticise the nursing home management, he said that the HSE would like to be called “at the earliest possible moment”. It is a judgement call for the nursing home, he added.

A new resident was admitted last Saturday after four recent deaths but no new admissions have been taken since the outbreak was declared.

Read: Health watchdog visits Donegal nursing home after six deaths in two weeks>

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