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The HPSC has not recorded any flu cases in the last week. Shutterstock/Naeblys

'Early days' for the spread of the flu as no cases reported in the last week

The HPSC has not recorded any flu cases in the last week.

NO FLU CASES were confirmed in the last week, according to a report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). 

 The weekly report showed that there were no new laboratory-confirmed influenza cases between 25 – 31 October. 

To date, there have only been two confirmed cases of the flu in Ireland during the 2021/2022 season. It is not clear yet if the virus has been passed on to others yet. 

 Jack Lambert, an infectious disease consultant in the Mater Hospital, said that the current trend of how the flu is spreading is not unlike previous years. 

“It can take off or it can just be sporadic and then it can peak, so this is not unusual,” he said. 

Influenza changes every year and as a result, it can be hard to track how it develops. As a result of this, it can start at a different point each year.

For example, in March 2020, influenza B was still circulating in Ireland – around the same time that the Covid-19 pandemic began. Other years, it has broken out in autumn or winter.

Lambert said, “We don’t understand respiratory viruses that well. Each year, they may come in at a different time.”

The flu could circulate in communities much easier before the pandemic, as practices like wearing masks were not commonplace. Since they have been introduced, the spread of influenza has slowed down.

“We didn’t see flu for the last couple of years because we were in lockdown and people were meticulously wearing masks. That was a function probably of Covid-prevention, resulting in less respiratory illnesses,” he said.  

“It’s early days. The fact that flu hasn’t hit this year doesn’t mean that it might not come later in the year or January, February of next year.”

Lambert’s public clinic would see many high-risk patients, many of which are homeless or from other vulnerable communities. Despite this, he says that no vaccinations for influenza have been delivered to him, due to short supply.  

“The flu vaccine has not been delivered to the hospitals for patient use. Patients are told, ‘It’s available in GP practices’, ‘It’s available in pharmacies’, but an awful lot of populations can’t afford a GP or they can’t afford a pharmacy.” 

“It’s a missed opportunity not having vaccines available for the most vulnerable and that, to me, is a failure of the Government’s plan,” he said. 

 Having a flu campaign and starting it earlier in the season is crucial to reducing influenza cases, according to Lambert. He said, “I do think it’s important that we roll out vaccines to all who need them and make it easy for them to access and currently, that’s not the situation.”

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