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HSE urges people to get vaccinated as at least 2 die after contracting H1N1 flu virus

The virus is also known as Swine Flu, and can be particularly harmful to young people and pregnant women.

Image: Shutterstock/InesBazdar

THE HSE HAS warned of a new virulent strain of the H1N1 flu virus that has hit Ireland, with as many as four people having died after contracting it.

The virus is also known as Swine Flu, and can be particularly harmful to young people and pregnant women, as well as the more usual at risk groups.

The HSE has urged people in vulnerable groups to get vaccinated, and others to stay at home if they notice they have flu-like symptoms. 

Speaking this afternoon on RTÉ’s News at One, Dr Kevin Kelleher, director of public health with the HSE, said the latest strain of the virus posed a potentially serious public health risk.

He said that at least two, but possibly four, people had died after contracting the virus. 

Kelleher said that this year the flu had arrived later than last year, but that there were clear signs that it was spreading in Ireland and that it would begin to spread quicker now that people were returning to school and work after Christmas holidays. 

“It’s particularly because young people go back to school and mingle and the reservoir of flu in the population generally is in children,” Dr Kelleher said. 

“Albeit the impacts then are in other groups in the community.

Already we’ve seen a number of people having to be admitted to ICUs and these are not the people you might expect, these are the people under 65 – in their 20s and 30s and 40s.

He said that unfortunately “a number of those have died already”.

So it shows that it can be a very problematic disease for people under 65. Predominantly with a pre-existing disease but it doesn’t have to be. 

Kelleher said the virus was also “a big problem for pregnant women” and people whose defences were already low.

He said that the H1N1 virus in particular caused chest problems, which could then lead to pneumonia which people with existing conditions will find hard to beat. 

“The flu starts the problem, but the real issue comes then with the pneumonia and the compromising of their breathing then as a consequence, and that’s what sees the problem,” he said.

He urged people to get vaccinated to protect themselves against the flu, especially those in more vulnerable groups.

“It’s still not too late to get vaccinated,” Dr Kelleher said. 

He also said that people who start to see that they are developing the flu should stay at home, so as not to spread the virus.    

About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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