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Over 100 people are expected to die of the flu this season

Half of those attending Emergency Departments have the flu or are presenting with flu-like symptoms.

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said that the flu season is suspected to have peaked already, and that the flu season came a month early this year.

So far, 18 people have died from the flu – but it’s expected that this will increase to just over 100 people by the end of the flu season, which generally stretches from October-April.

This is an increase in deaths in the previous two years: by February this year, 38 people had died in the 2018/19 flu season, while 55 people died in the previous flu season.

Dr Kevin Kelleher, Assistant National Director for Health Protection said that that figure represents those who die of the flu, but added that more people who get admitted to hospital with the flu are actually being admitted with other conditions, and die from those conditions.
He said that around 300-400 people a year who have the flu will die from other conditions, such as pneumonia or heart disease.
Speaking at a HSE briefing today, Harris said that 50% of those attending Emergency Departments have the flu or are presenting with flu-like symptoms.

The HSE and the Department of Health are urging people to only go to Emergency Departments if they’re having particularly severe flu symptoms.

“Our hospitals are very busy at the moment – so if you go to an Emergency Department, the most seriously sick people will be seen to first,” said the HSE’s Chief Operations Officer Anne O’Connor.

Dr Vida Hamilton, National Clinical Advisor with the HSE Acute Hospital Operations, advised people with the flu who wonder should they go to hospital:

A good rule of thumb is if you can have a normal conversation [where] you make sense and you’re not confused; if you’re able to take in fluids; and if you’re able to self-mobilize to the bathroom to go to the loo – then, in general, you’re fit enough to stay at home and care for yourself with a flu-like illness.
However, if you’re very breathless; if you’re confused or agitated; if you don’t need to go to the loo after more than 12 hours, then you really need to be seen by a health professional.

People are being advised to visit undertheweather.ie to find advice on how to look after yourself when you have the flu.

Harris said today:

“This year, that the flu has come to Ireland much earlier than in the past and in fact has even exceeded the peak level for which it reached in 2018 at this stage already.

It looks like it’s come a lot earlier and therefore is likely to peak a lot earlier and we would hope that over the coming weeks to begin to see a flu levels reduced in our country. But there’s no doubt that this is going to put significant pressure on our health service.

Emergency Department attendance rates are “significantly higher” this year when compared to last year. 

When three dates in December this year were compared to last year, there was an increase of attendance by 2.5%, 5.1%, and 7.5% on each of those dates.

The overall attendance rate to Emergency Departments from November until now has increased by 30,485, or 2.5%, on the same period last year.

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