With health authorities reporting an increase in influenza cases and influenza-like illness, pharmacists have reminded that it is not too late to get the flu vaccination and advised people, particularly those in at-risk categories, to get vaccinated.
Latest reports confirm that levels of influenza and respiratory illness have almost doubled across the country over the past two weeks and the rate is expected to increase further in the coming weeks.
Ann Marie Horan, Pharmacist and member of the Executive Committee of the Irish Pharmacy Union, said, “the flu vaccination is the best way to reduce the chances that a patient will get the flu and spread it to others. We would encourage patients, especially at-risk patients, who include elderly people, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses, to visit their local pharmacy to get the flu vaccine now. It is not too late. The service is available free of charge from pharmacists to anyone who holds a medical card.”
While it can often be difficult to tell the difference between the common cold and flu, flu is a much more severe illness than a cold. Flu symptoms, particularly fever and muscle aches, tend to come on suddenly, whereas a cold usually starts gradually with symptoms of a sore throat and a blocked or runny nose.
The flu virus can be passed on by coughing or sneezing and can be spread from 1-2 days before you develop symptoms and for up to a week after symptoms develop. The HSE has previously warned that flu could cause up to 1,000 deaths if Ireland has a severe winter. Research has shown that the flu vaccine cuts the risk of death from influenza for elderly patients and reduces the chance of hospitalisation.