herald

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Child alert as new cases of swine flu surge

Spread: Fears over return to school

FEARS are growing for the country's schoolchildren as a fresh outbreak of swine flu takes hold.

Children under the age of 14 and pregnant women are among the worst risk categories.

Nineteen of the 120 confirmed cases have involved pregnant women. Eight of them needed hospital treatment.

The highest flu rates have been reported in children under 14, meaning that the problem is likely to spike when schools reopen next week -- and could even force some schools to close again.

The virus is set to confine hundreds of workers and children to bed and dozens more will be hospitalised.

Doctors were today preparing for a fresh outbreak after cases doubled in just one week.

Already one maternity hospital in Dublin has had to enforce restrictions because of the flu and 36 people have been hospitalised.

According to the HSE there has already been "a major rise in people attending GPs and GP out-of-hours services with flu like illnesses".

As authorities ordered additional stocks of flu vaccine, thousands of pregnant women in particular were being urged to get immunised.

There was also an outbreak of swine flu at Dublin's Rotunda Hospital before Christmas as well as one in a school.

Last winter, the H1N1 Influenza, better known as swine flu, accounted for 98pc of all flu cases seen in Ireland.

It is now the predominant flu virus in circulation but unlike last year the H1N1 strain is now covered by the seasonal flu vaccine.

Head of Health Protection with the HSE Dr Kevin Kelleher confirmed that almost all of the 650,000 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine delivered in September have been administered.

A further 30,000 measures of the vaccine have now been order and are "in the course of being delivered".

The HSE has appealed to pregnant women to get immunised. Officials are reassuring women there is no need to be afraid of side effects.

Last year's dose contained some mercury, which caused concerns about birth defects for expectant mothers.

However, the HSE said: "The seasonal flu vaccine does not contain an adjuvant and does not contain mercury (thiomersal)."

Last winter, a pregnant woman in her 30s from Co Louth died of swine flu and this season 19 of the people with the virus have been pregnant or women who have recently given birth, several of whom ended up in hospital.

Of the 120 notified confirmed cases, nine cases were in the 0-4 year age group, 10 cases were aged 5-14, 95 were in the 15-64 age group, four cases were aged 65 or older and age was unknown for two cases.



Symptoms

People are being urged to go to their GP rather than turn up at under-pressure hospital emergency departments if they have flu-like symptoms.

The large numbers of flu victims turning up at the A&E department of Galway's University College Hospital caused so much pressure that around 25 patients had their elective surgery postponed.

The potential scale of the problem is already evident in England where 39 people have already died this winter.

A total of 738 people have required intensive care, which is four times higher than at the peak of last year's pandemic.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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