Tommie Gorman receiving the flu vaccine from Niamh Finlay, HSE Sligo/Leitrim Occupational Health Service
The flu virus is circulating in our communities and health care facilities and is causing much concern due to the seriousness of the illness.
Incidences have tripled in Ireland over the past 2 weeks, where the proportion of flu related calls to GP services reached the highest level reported since 2010/11 and respiratory admissions reached the highest level ever reported.
There have been several Community Hospitals and Nursing Units across Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) Area 1 (Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo) who have been closed to admissions and have restricted visiting in place due to the current flu outbreak.
Since September 2016 CHO Area 1 have been running a Flu Vaccine Awareness Campaign to get across the importance of getting the flu vaccine for all at risk groups.
Flu can be a very serious and sometimes deadly disease, with potentially 1,000 flu related deaths in Ireland during a severe flu season. Flu is very infectious and can cause potentially serious illnesses especially for older people, those who have a chronic illness, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. Seasonal flu vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy and also protects the baby. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus and all those at risk should get vaccinated as soon as possible. The following groups of at-risk people should be vaccinated against seasonal influenza:
· 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, heart disease, diabetes or those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment
· Pregnant women
· Residents of nursing homes and other residential care services
· All Healthcare Workers
The HSE provides the flu vaccine free of charge for all those in the at-risk groups. The vaccine is available from your GP or local Pharmacy. The vaccine and consultation are free to those within the at risk groups who have a 'Medical Card' or 'Doctor Only Card'. Family doctors and Pharmacists charge a consultation fee for seasonal flu vaccine to those who do not have a 'Medical Card' or 'Doctor Only Card'.
Dr. Brenda Corcoran, Head of the HSE National Immunisation Office urged those in at risk groups, who have not yet been vaccinated, to get the vaccine. She said “The flu vaccine is a lifesaver because flu can be a very serious and sometimes deadly disease, with potentially 1,000 flu related deaths in Ireland during a severe flu season. That is why those who are most vulnerable to the complications of flu need to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is the only defence against flu, yet every year many people in the at risk groups fail to get vaccinated and put themselves at risk of serious illness or even death.”
“The symptoms of flu usually develop over a matter of a few hours, and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat. Flu is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature. Flu is spread by coughing and sneezing so people should cover their nose and mouth with a tissue, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and washing their hands with soap and water as soon as possible to help prevent the spread of flu. Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter flu remedies to ease symptoms. People in high-risk categories should contact their GP if they develop flu symptoms,” said Dr. Corcoran.