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Ireland HSE under extra pressure as flu season hits early

09:55  08 december  2019
09:55  08 december  2019 Source:   independent.ie

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The 2017–18 United States flu season covered influenza activity taking place in the United States from late 2017 through early 2018. The predominant strain of influenza was H3N2.

The HSE has warned flu season will last 'another nine to 10 weeks' and confirmed total of 55 people including children have died. The HSE have warned that people should get a flu jab as soon as possible as flu deaths increase to 55 this season .

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Ireland's flu season has arrived early this winter, piling more pressure on already overstretched health services.

The rate of increase in influenza cases indicates the threshold of 18 per 100,000 population was crossed last week.

The early arrival of the flu season will officially be confirmed when figures for new cases are released this Thursday.

With a number of schools being hit by rapidly spreading viruses, parents are being urged to keep their children at home and to keep them hydrated if they show any signs of flu-like symptoms.

A nurses' leader warned that overcrowding in hospitals can lead to the rapid spread of flu among vulnerable patients and said it is now time to consider cancelling all elective procedures until the New Year.

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Last season , the flu caused between 37.4 million and 42.9 million illnesses and between 36,400 and 61,200 deaths, according to preliminary data from the CDC. The second option, the quadrivalent flu vaccine, protects against the same strains as the trivalent vaccine, as well as an extra influenza B virus.

Everything you need to know about the flu illness, including symptoms, treatment and prevention. It’s not too late to get vaccinated. Flu vaccination is always the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications.

Last night, the Minister for Health Simon Harris told the Sunday Independent he expected to be in a position to make announcements over the coming days "to help alleviate some of the pressures our emergency departments are facing, including opening beds".

He added: "I would encourage anyone who hasn't already to get the flu vaccine."

Mr Harris, who recently reduced costs of attending minor injury clinics in a bid to reduce pressure on busy hospital emergency departments, added that he wanted to thank the HSE and frontline health staff for their vital work "at this very busy time".

Figures showing a rapid rise in flu-like illnesses indicated there were 10.7 cases per 100,000 population in the week ending November 24, but that figure jumped to 16.9 for the week which ended last Sunday.

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Hospitals under 'rapidly escalating' pressure as flu season looms. “The flu , generally speaking, really hits you very hard. "You speak to people who've had the flu The HSE has also advised that anyone suffering from the flu should rest, drink lots of fluids and take medicine such as paracetamol.

If flu seems to be everywhere all of a sudden, that’s because it is, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. Influenza is peaking at the same time across virtually the whole United States, making for a “very active” flu season , the CDC said in its weekly update on the annual flu epidemic.

Dr Kevin Kelleher, the HSE's assistant national director for strategic planning and transformation, public health and child health, said the early arrival of the winter flu season was expected.

"There's a fair amount of respiratory disease. The winter season has come earlier. The Irish baseline is 18 per 100,000. The baseline indicates the start of our flu season," he said, adding that the rate of increase means that the figure to be released for last week "will probably be in the 20s".

Asked by this newspaper if flu season had arrived early, Dr Kelleher said: "Yes, but we haven't formally been able to say that."

He said that more than a decade ago, the flu season was arriving in January-February but it had arrived earlier, around Christmas, in recent years. This year, it is earlier still. He said elderly people and children were most vulnerable to the flu.

Dr Kelleher also confirmed the number of cases of the norovirus winter vomiting bug is "high" at present.

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Flu season usually doesn't hit fever pitch until around February. The early start suggests a lot Americans may be sick at the same time, said Dave Osthus, a statistician who does flu forecasting at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "This could be a precursor to something pretty bad.

The HSE 's Assistant National Director for Health Protection, Dr Kevin Kelleher said the number of deaths this season is now expected to be at "the top end of the normal range". Dr Kelleher said that flu activity has been at high levels for the past seven weeks. He said that while the flu season would

Norovirus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea. Sufferers should phone their doctors rather than visit clinics or hospitals because the virus is highly contagious.

Several different viruses are circulating at present..

A principal at a Dublin southside school said large numbers of children were absent with viruses. There were also cases of scarlet fever in the school which is bacterial-based.

The principal said several schools in the region had been badly hit.

Phil Ni Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Association (INMO), expressed concern about current overcrowding in children's hospitals in view of how children are among the most vulnerable to flu as well as the elderly.

INMO figures showed that 13 children were recorded as being on trolleys awaiting beds in Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin last Friday while the Children's University Hospital in Temple Street had 11 children on trolleys.

Ms Ni Sheaghdha said isolation facilities were vital in dealing with young flu victims who need to be hospitalised.

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Flu season usually doesn't hit fever pitch until around February. The early start suggests a lot Americans may be sick at the same time, said Dave Osthus, a statistician who does flu forecasting at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "This could be a precursor to something pretty bad.

Health bosses also warned that flu has arrived early , with cases already beginning to spike. "NHS services across England continue to work hard to prepare for the winter season , including staff getting their free flu jab, and now we're appealing to the public to 'Help Us, Help You' by ensuring that they

"If you have an already overcrowded area in hospital and you bring someone infectious in, it is very serious. So all elective activity should cease. If it is predictable, and we know the flu is early this winter, then all elective procedures, in anticipation of that, should be cancelled between now and the New Year," she said.

"Therefore, every available space should be used to accommodate this surge that we now know is going to happen. There is no point in carrying on regardless and then expecting hospitals to cope on the day. There has to be an element of pre-planning."

Meanwhile, the public has been urged to take simple, yet vital, precautions to protect their own health and the well-being of their families, friends and colleagues.

"Washing our hands regularly and covering our coughs and sneezes are important interventions to stop diseases like flu, winter vomiting bug and respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV) from spreading," said the director of the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre, Dr John Cuddihy.

"Influenza-like illness has increased in all age groups. Hospitalised cases of influenza and influenza-associated outbreaks in residential care facilities are also increasing."

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