'Hearts of the nation go out to tragic Sean and family' - Harris
Simon Harris has offered his condolences to the family of Dublin teenager Sean Hughes, who died after suffering flu-like symptoms.
Speaking ahead of the schoolboy's funeral today, the Health Minister said that while he had no information on the sudden death of the 15-year-old from Finglas, the family should know the nation held them in their thoughts.
"Our hearts go out to the family," Mr Harris told the Herald.
"I think the heart of everybody in the country would go out to that family."
Sean, who attended Colaiste Eoin School in Finglas, was a renowned rapper within his community.
His funeral will take place today at St Canice's Church, Finglas village, at 10am, and his remains will then be removed for burial at Glasnevin.
On Sunday, Sean's mother Karen told the Herald how rapidly flu-like symptoms had emerged before his death.
She had taken Sean to the GP on Wednesday morning, but by Thursday night he was seriously ill. Sean died on Friday morning in Temple Street Children's Hospital.
"We were sitting downstairs watching Netflix at around 11.50pm. Sean was talking to me and next he wasn't talking and I knew straight away something was wrong," Karen said.
"They got him into hospital at around 12.30am, but Sean died at 6.30am. I'll never forget it."
The country is in the grip of what is expected to be the worst flu crisis in a quarter-of-a-century, with 20,000 patients attending GPs across the country, while hundreds have been admitted to hospital.
This week is expected to see a peak in numbers contracting flu, but Mr Harris said 109,000 more people were vaccinated this year compared with last year.
"We saw a significant increase in healthcare workers being vaccinated," he said.
"But still there are nowhere near enough being vaccinated, and these are people working with vulnerable people."
Mr Harris said medical advice suggesting that flu could peak this week presented a "challenging position".
"There are too many people on hospital trolleys today, but we have an improvement on last week and the week before, so I want to thank everyone in the health service," he said.
The minister said he was concerned about children's services during the flu season.
"One of the issues in our children's hospitals is the lack of isolation facilities," he said.
"We have hospitals that are excellent, but the infrastructure needs to be upgraded. That is why we are now building a new state-of-the-art national children's hospital.
"We are investing nearly a billion euro of taxpayers' money in it, and the reason I make that point is because it will provide every child with their own room and en suite, which will mean when a flu surge comes it's much easier to isolate a child with a flu.
"At the moment, clinicians are having to make very difficult decisions, and sometimes it means a child spending longer in an emergency department - something we'd never want to happen."