Influenza is an acute contagious respiratory illness caused by infection with an influenza virus.
People in high-risk groups are urged to get vaccinated against influenza, as the number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Ireland has increased in the past month.Influenza is expected to increase over the coming weeks and circulate for at least the next 6-8 weeks.
The influenza vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for all people in at risk groups, and from pharmacists for everyone in risk groups aged 18 years and over. An administration charge may apply to people who don’t hold medical cards or GP visit cards.
At-risk groups for the vaccine are:
- All those aged 65 years and older
- People including children with chronic illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as
- chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, chronic neurological disorders,
- neurodevelopmental disorders and diabetes
- Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment
- All pregnant women. The vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy.
- Those with morbid obesity i.e. Body Mass Index ≥ 40
- Residents of nursing homes, old people’s homes and other long stay facilities
- Health care workers and carers of those in risk groups.
- Vaccination remains the most effective means of preventing infection by seasonal influenza viruses.
- Vaccination will still prevent some infections and can reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalisation and death.
Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms. Advice, tips, information and videos on getting over flu and other common illnesses are available at a new HSE website, www.undertheweather.ie. Anyone in one of the high-risk categories should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms. GPs may wish to prescribe antivirals for those presenting with influenza in the high risk groups.
[Information courtesy from the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre website]