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At risk groups encouraged to get the flu vaccine
The HSE acknowledges that attendances in hospital Emergency Departments are currently very high, and staff are working hard to cope with the increased demand for services:
GPs, community services and hospital staff are dealing with a significant surge in patient demand.
We apologise to all of those affected by this surge in activity and we are making every effort manage and improve the situation for our patients and our staff.
The HSE Special Delivery Unit’s TrolleyGAR national total regarding patients on trolleys at 2pm today (Monday, 6th January 2020) was 467, a reduction from 543 at 8am today.
Some of our hospitals have made the decision to restrict visiting in order to protect the safety of patients and visitors based on an assessment of risk.
When there is a high level of circulation of infectious illnesses, such as flu, norovirus and RSV, the level of risk to patients and visitors is significant and all steps to minimise the possibility of exposure to these illnesses should be taken.
The current flu season spiked over Christmas and the New Year. It is now at levels significantly ahead of those experienced last year as it arrived up to 4 weeks earlier.
Children and older persons are particularly vulnerable to viral infection and represent the vast majority of flu positive presentations this season. All visitors to healthcare facilities should check with the facility in advance of visiting. The public are also asked to observe good hand hygiene by washing hands regularly, using alcohol gels provided in healthcare facilities and observing good respiratory etiquette by using a tissue to cough or sneeze into, dispose of it immediately afterwards and wash your hands regularly.
Fair Deal, which provides financial support for those in long-term nursing home care, and home support services have received additional resources to deal with demand and up to 199 additional acute beds are being opened to support service delivery.
It is not too late to get your flu vaccination and the HSE is today urging people in high-risk groups to get vaccinated. The level of flu and influenza like illness remains high and the best way to avoid getting the flu is to get vaccinated.
The HSE’s Dr Kevin Kelleher, Assistant National Director of Public and Child Health, said: “We know this year’s vaccine is a good match for the current strain of flu and the best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated. Flu can be a very serious and sometimes deadly disease.
“People need to remember that flu causes severe illness and death in Ireland every year. 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 so put themselves at risk of serious illness or even death.”
“The vaccine reduces infection and associated illnesses and hospitalisation. 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 this year to make sure that they are protected.”
In an effort to curtail the spread of flu the HSE is also advising parents not to send their children back to school if they have flu like illness or any of the associated symptoms i.e. a high temperature, aches and pains or chesty cough.
Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms. Anyone in one of the high-risk groups should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms. If you need to visit your GP or the Emergency Department, please phone first to explain that you might have flu.
Covering your cough and sneeze can also help stop the spread of flu.
- Use a tissue and place it immediately in the bin. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer
- DO cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.
- DON’T cough or sneeze into your hands. You’ll end up spreading germs to everything you touch.
The influenza vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for people in at risk groups, and from pharmacists, for everyone in at risk groups aged 10 years and over. An administration charge may apply to people who don’t hold medical cards or GP visit cards.
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