Flu is hitting the over-65s hardest as death toll rises

The death toll from flu this winter has risen to 44, with people over 65 the worst hit by the virus.

Flu is still widespread and circulating at a high level, but rates have fallen – although it is posing a greater threat to older people who are more likely to end up in intensive care.

Two of the deaths involved children and six were in the 35-64 year age group.

Last week, 609 patients were hospitalised with flu and the highest outbreaks, where the virus was passed on from one person to another, were seen in nursing homes and hospitals.

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There were 25 outbreaks of flu in hospitals as the effect of overcrowding increased the risk of the infection being picked up by patients having to be placed too near one another.

The areas of the country which have experienced the fewest number of cases are the south-east, west and north west.

It comes as the hospital trolley crisis has eased, although 530 patients were waiting for a bed across the country yesterday, causing more congestion and long delays.

The HSE said there were fewer over-75s attending.

There is also a fall in the numbers of patients in this age group who need to be admitted to a ward.

The HSE claimed several measures to relieve overcrowding remained in place.

Many patients due for admission for surgery continue to remain on hold at home to free up space in hospital.

However, a large volume of beds remained blocked by patients who cannot be discharged without step-down care.

There were 617 beds blocked last week, up from 551 at the end of December.

Once more surgery resumes, there is the chance of overcrowding rising again as hospitals will have fewer beds to call on again.

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