The health protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has said influenza is now circulating in Ireland, and the data indicate that the number of confirmed cases notified to HPSC has almost tripled in the past week.
Thirty-seven laboratory-confirmed influenza cases were notified during the most recent week, compared to 13 cases in the previous week.
The median age of the 37 notified cases was 23. Of the 37 cases, 13 were reported as hospital inpatients, with a median age of 69. The overall influenza positivity rate reported from the National Virus Reference Laboratory is 10%. This is the threshold that indicates that influenza is circulating in the community.
There have been 120 laboratory-confirmed cases since the start of the flu season in Ireland.
Given the increase in most influenza surveillance indicators, the HPSC said it “considers that influenza viruses are now circulating in Ireland”.
Dr Lucy Jessop, Director of Public Health at the HSE’s National Immunisation Office said, “it was to be expected that it would be circulating”.
“I suppose we never knew what this flu season was going to bring, there wasn’t really any flu last year, people weren’t traveling, and so on, so we always thought there could be a resurgence.”
She said the dominant strain that is circulating is more severe in older people and she encouraged those over 65 who have not yet got their flu vaccine to get it now.
“Something to keep in mind is that the flu vaccine is still available for people over the age of 50, – since October 1.3 million people have taken it,” Dr. Jessop said.
“It’s also available for pregnant women, healthcare workers, and those who are at high risk.”
The rate of GP consultations for influenza-like illnesses increased from 8.3 per 100,000 population the previous week to 10.2 per 100,000 population last week. The proportion of self-reported flu calls to GP out-of-hours services also increased slightly (0.5%).
There was an increase in the positivity rate of specimens tested at the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) last week, with 9.9% of specimens positive for influenza, compared to less than 1% the previous week.
No deaths linked to influenza cases were reported last week.
In Europe, the HPSC said influenza activity has also increased slightly, with different levels of activity between countries and areas.
News source: The journal