THE HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has urged people in high-risk groups to get vaccinated against the flu as the number of reported cases of flu-like illness (ILI) has almost doubled in the past week.
ILI rates have risen from 15.7 per 100,000 to 26.2 per 100,000 during the second week of February and are now above “threshold levels” which means that flu is actively circulating in the community, according to Dr Joan O’Donnell, Specialist in Public Health Medicine.
“People who are at risk of the complications of flu need to get vaccinated against the disease now.
“The vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for all people in at risk groups, and from pharmacists for everyone aged 65 and over.
“An administration charge may apply to people who don’t hold medical cards or GP visit cards,” she said.
Those at risk include:
- Everyone aged 65 years and over
- Anyone over six months of age with a long-term illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease or diabetes
- Pregnant women
- Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment
- Children or teenagers on long-term aspirin therapy
- Residents of nursing homes and other long stay facilities
- Healthcare workers and carers
“People who were vaccinated last year still need to get their flu jab this year as immunity from the vaccine lasts twelve months and wanes over time,” said Dr O’Donnell.
Flu is different from the common cold and usually develops quickly over a matter of hours with symptoms including a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat.
The common cold tends to come on gradually and symptoms usually include a runny nose and a normal temperature.
“Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and cleaning your hands as soon as you can are important measures in helping prevent the spread of germs and reducing the risk of transmission,” said Dr O’Donnell.