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It's that time of year again but have you got your flu jab?

The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre has said the number of influenza-like illnesses has increased over the past week.

THERE HAS BEEN a jump in the number of people presenting with flu-like illnesses (ILI) over the past week, the country’s health watchdog has said.

The HPSC, which monitors communicable diseases, has urged people in high-risk groups to get vaccinated against influenza.

According to the HSE agency, rates have risen from 20.5 per 100,000 population to 32.4 per 100,000 population during the second week of February.

They are now above threshold levels which means that flu is actively circulating in the community, said public health medicine specialist 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 include those aged 65 or more, people with chronic illnesses and those with lower immunity because of disease or treatment.

The vaccine should also be obtained by pregnant women, at any stage of their pregnancies, and men and women suffering with morbid obesity.

Healthcare workers and carers are also considered at high risk.

Symptoms of flu usually develop over a matter of hours. They include a high temperature, sore muscles, a dry cough, a headache and a sore throat.

There is a difference between flu and the common cold. The latter tends to come on more gradually and 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,” advised O’Donnell. “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.”

Read: Fifth bird flu case reported in Hong Kong

More: Families affected by swine flu jab to demand action from EU health commissioner

Related: Hong Kong kills 20,000 chickens over bird flu fears

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