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The flu has caused 29 deaths and 835 hospitalisations this winter and will remain for up to four weeks

“There is still a significant amount of flu in our community … this is higher than it has been in a number of years.”

THERE HAVE BEEN 29 deaths this winter due to the flu, the vast majority of these (90%) were in the 65 and over age group.

However, the highest rates of flu are in the 16-64 age group, followed by the 65s and over.

Over the past week 290 patients were hospitalised with the virus, bringing the total number of people hospitalised for this season to 835.

The figures were given to reporters at a HSE press briefing by Dr Joan O’Donnell, specialist in public health medicine at the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Thirty people with confirmed flu cases were admitted to critical care units, the majority of these were in the 65 and over age group.

The briefing also heard that GPs are reporting a reduction in the number of people they are seeing with flu symptoms.

However, HSE assistant national director for public health, Dr Kevin Kelleher warned:

It’s still out there and will remain out there for the next three or four weeks.

“There is still a significant amount of flu in our community, the level it’s at at the moment is still above the medium risk … this is higher than it has been in a number of years.

“We’re likely to see outbreaks of flu continuing in residential homes for the elderly well through past Easter”.

Flu vaccine 

It was also stated that there has been an increase in the number of people taking the flu vaccines, but that we are well below where we need to be.

Our numbers are still well below what you would really want to control the flu. To control the flu you need well up in excess of 30, 40, 50% of the population – we’re nowhere near that. At the best we’re around 13-15% of the population.”

He added that it’s interesting to see how the UK are coping as they have started getting those high figures.

“They’re not seeing the scale of flu we’re seeing and what’s been seen on the continent.”

It’s very interesting, their data shows they are barely getting to their baseline figure – they are nowhere near the kind of scale we’re at.”

Speaking about their vaccine take up, Kelleher stated, “They’re getting well over 70% for the over 65s, their health care workers are over 50% and they are on the 30-40% mark for children.”

He said it was extremely important for all risk groups to get the vaccine if they are not up to date:

“Flu has not gone away and particularly for some of the risk groups, pregnant women, people with medical conditions and the elderly, it is still very important to get the vaccine.”

Read: Second case of bird flu found in Ireland>

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