herald

Friday 19 April 2019

Experts warn no end in sight to flu outbreak as virus claims nine lives

Nearly 500 patients have been hospitalised with flu
Nearly 500 patients have been hospitalised with flu

The flu outbreak currently sweeping Ireland shows little sign of letting up, with health experts warning it could last another eight weeks.

The virus has so far claimed nine lives this winter, with 545 patients having been hospitalised.

A&E departments are bearing the brunt of the outbreak. Yesterday, 480 patients were on trolleys waiting for a bed.

Flu outbreaks have increased in all age groups, with the highest rates reported among those aged 15 to 64.

The HSE has urged people in high-risk groups to get vaccinated as the number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Ireland continues to rise.

New research shows how socio-economic factors can affect whether a person will attend A&E with flu.

It found that unemployment increased the likelihood of attendance by 38pc while poor housing pushed up the likelihood by 34pc.

The survey looked at 20 disadvantaged neighbourhoods across northwest England.

Depression, a need for help with personal care, access to public transport and house- hold proximity to A&E departments were other key factors influencing an individual's decision.

Those living closer to an A&E department also formed a higher proportion of attendees, while the distance from their local GP surgery could also influence a decision to attend.

Dr Clarissa Giebel, a research manager at the University of Liverpool, said: "Accident and Emergency attendance rates are rapidly on the increase. They are particularly high in disadvantaged areas.

Inequalities

"In order to reduce A&E att-endances, we need to consider wider factors faced by communities.

"Inequalities around employment and housing are an important part of understanding the motivations for attendance levels.

"There is a clear need for closer consideration of the placement of primary care services and ensuring clearer public access routes to them."

The research also identified that higher levels of education were associated with an increased likelihood of A&E attendance.

Meanwhile, a Fianna Fail motion has called on the Government to engage with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), whose members are threatening strike action.

Fianna Fail called for the establishment of an expert group to examine the nursing and midwifery profession, in particular remuneration, contracts and allowances.

Fianna Fail health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said: "Now that the Dail has made clear its support for nurses and midwives ahead of their strike action, it is imperative that the Government take this motion seriously and addresses the concerns of nurses."

Labour Party health spokesman Alan Kelly has, along with Sinn Fein, the Social Democrats and Indpendents4Change, submitted proposals to the Dail on the upcoming strike by the INMO and the PNA.

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