Australian flu cases may swamp hospitals
Hospitals around the country are braced for a flood of patients after the flu season kicked in over the holidays.
The HSE warned people last night not to attend out-of-hours emergency services unless it is absolutely urgent as those such as Dublin D-doc were inundated with calls over the weekend.
While many GP's surgeries will re-open today, some may remain closed until next week. Others may also be swamped with appointments.
Meanwhile, the HSE confirmed it anticipates a high volume of patients at A&E departments starting today, as usual following the Christmas break. However, the surge in cases of the virulent and potentially deadly Australian flu is putting a strain on hospital resources, a spokesman said.
"We do see an increase in respiratory infections and complications from the flu. We expect the emergency departments to be very busy," she said.
Dublin's Rotunda maternity hospital has been forced to impose visitor restrictions due to the flu outbreak.
"We have to be careful. We put restrictions in place because the number of positive flu cases was increasing," a Rotunda spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is still advising people to get the flu jab despite reports that the strain of Australian flu, known as Influenza A virus subtype H3N2, may be resistant to vaccines.
"Effectiveness against A H3N2 is likely to be low," according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
However, HPSC director Dr Kevin Kelleher has previously said that "prevention is better than cure and the increase in flu activity means it is even more important to get your flu jab if you are in an at-risk group".
This would include the over-65s and those with chronic lung or heart disease.