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People urged to get flu vaccine after jump in cases of influenza-like illness

People in high-risk groups include pregnant women and those over the age of 65.

Image: Shutterstock/kung_tom

THE HEALTH PROTECTION Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has urged people in high-risk groups to get vaccinated against influenza.

The number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Ireland has increased in the past week and flu is now actively circulating.

Last week, the GP consultation rate for ILI increased to 20.3 per 100,000 population, up from 6.8 per 100,000 the previous week.

ILIs have increased in all age groups except 0-4 years. Cases of influenza in hospital and residential care facilities have also increased. Although flu is starting to circulate, cases remain at a low level.

Dr Kevin Kelleher, Director of the HPSC, said: “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.”

High-risk groups include:

  • Those aged 65 years and older
  • Pregnant women (the vaccine can be given safely at any stage of pregnancy)
  • Those who are morbidly obese
  • People, including children, with chronic illness that requires regular medical follow-ups
  • Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment, and all cancer patients
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-stay facilities
  • Healthcare workers and carers of those in high-risk groups

Dr Kelleher said: “People in at-risk groups can get the vaccine for free as they are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu, and sadly many end up in hospital.

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 groups should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms.

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“If you need to visit your GP or the emergency department, please phone first to explain that you might have flu.”

Advice and information on getting over the flu and other common illnesses are available here.

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Órla Ryan

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