More children ‘at risk of infection by flu’ as virus hits trolley crisis

More children are expected to be struck with the flu, which has claimed six lives so far this winter.

The return to school will increase the spread of the virus among children, Dr Kevin Kelleher of the HSE warned. Flu is now circulating more intensely and is expected to worsen, posing a threat for the next six to eight weeks.

It has led to 29 patients being admitted to intensive care so far and has led to four outbreaks where it has spread from one person to another.

The swine flu is the main strain of the virus circulating.

Dr Kelleher said children were not among the flu fatalities so far and they also do not include any pregnant women – although both these groups are susceptible to swine flu.

However, the flu is affecting the trolley crisis, which worsened this week.

There were 500 patients waiting for a bed yesterday morning, with hospitals in Limerick, Cork, Letterkenny and Waterford suffering the highest levels of overcrowding.

The flu means patients who are infected have to be isolated, with fewer beds then available to people on trolleys.

Although six patients have died directly from the flu, it is also contributing to other fatalities in people who have underlying illnesses.

Anyone who gets the flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies to ease symptoms.

Dr Cillian de Gascun, of the Virus Reference Laboratory in UCD, urged people to get the flu vaccine, which takes two weeks to take effect.

Meanwhile, HSE official Joe Ryan said in the week up to Tuesday there was a 13.5pc increase in emergency department admissions – the equivalent of 819 more patients than the same time last year.

He said: “We are coping.”

The morning hospital trolley count is still lower than this time last year, he insisted.

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