Flu death toll rises to eight as doctors warn tough winter is ahead

The flu has claimed the lives of five more people this winter bringing the death toll from the virus to eight.

The majority of the deaths have occurred in people aged 65 years and older.

The A(h3) strain of flu which is circulating can cause serious illness among the elderly.

The level of flu circulating rose again last week and public health officials fear it will be a particularly bad winter for the illness.

The number of hospitalisations increased last week and the highest rates were seen in those aged less than 5 years old.

To date this season, 627 hospitalised confirmed flu cases have been reported.

Vaccination remains the most effective means of preventing infection by seasonal flu viruses and can reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalisation and death.

The vaccine takes two weeks to take effect once received.

The HSE warned that flu “is now circulating in the community in Ireland.”

Influenza-like illness rose to 57.9 /100,000 population last week.

This is a jump from 36.8 per 100,000 during the previous week.

It said:” Influenza activity is expected to increase over the coming weeks and to circulate for at least the next 6 to 8 weeks.”

Flu increased in all age groups except in people aged 65 years and older.

Speaking at a HSE briefing on winter healthcare Dr Mel Bates , director of the Northdoc out of hours service in north Dublin said the GPs are seeing more parents bringing their child after googling cold symptoms and treating them as “catastrophes.”

These are regular coughs and colds which are best treated at home with “time and paracetamol,” he added.

The HSE said hospital emergency departments are also under increasing pressure and attendances rose by around 7pc last

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