High infection rate among young people in Limerick

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YOUNGER people are coming down with Covid-19 in Limerick at a faster rate than most of the country, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

One in twenty Limerick people have contracted the virus with an average age of 37, the third lowest in the country. In Dublin, where the infection rate among young people was thought to be highest, the average age is 38.

The average age of death from the virus in Limerick is higher at 83, highlighting the fact that while younger people are getting sick, the old and vulnerable are dying.

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The 37 age average is worked out by overall statistics, meaning that people much younger than that are being struck by the virus.

The figure is lower than the national average and 9,120 people in Limerick have been infected which represents five per cent of the population of the city and county.

There have been 107 deaths in Limerick from the virus up to the last week in January.

About half of the deaths have been in nursing homes among older people and people with underlying conditions but the statistics are now showing that a much younger generation is being infected.

The new figures were issued as it was learned that the defence forces have been called in to help in nursing homes because of staff shortages.

Meanwhile, the HSE has expressed concern over an increase in social gatherings in the Mid West, appealing to the public to avoid such behaviour during  “a critical period of the pandemic”.

A growing number of social gatherings that have led to new infections and outbreaks have been identified in recent weeks involving the local student population, which included non-essential household visits and large social gatherings.

One community outbreak of 38 cases “occurred as a result of transmission among student population through a variety of social contact settings.

“One of the cases worked at a restaurant where transmission to two work colleagues occurred, causing a workplace outbreak. These two work colleagues spread the virus to family members within their households.

A second “community outbreak of 61 cases occurred through transmission at social gatherings and household visits among the student population.

“One of these cases worked at a hotel during a wedding, and transmission occurred among 16 wedding guests and work colleagues.

“Two cases in this further outbreak spread the virus within their households. There was transmission from one home to their extended family. One student in the initial outbreak went on to infect a family member in their household.

Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West, said the two outbreaks highlighted by the department “are just two of many incidents where social events led to very complex outbreaks ”.

“December saw a significant number of social gatherings of all age groups, resulting in a concerning level of illness and death this month; we do not want to repeat that, as we are still managing and investigating outbreaks among our most vulnerable,” she said.

“As testing for close contacts resumes, the priority is to bring infection numbers to a minimum in the community to allow us to respond effectively to those who need our help the most”.

On Tuesday, January 19, there were 198 Covid-19 cases recorded in the Mid-West region and this had dropped to 60 by Monday, February 1.

Dr Mannix said that despite a reduction in daily cases numbers “it only takes a small number of incidents to undo the hard work of the majority and it is important not to undo our efforts to date.”

Public Health Medicine Specialist Dr Marie Casey, who works with third level institutions in the Mid-West region, said there was initial evidence of student clusters surfacing again in the region and she urged all students to follow public health guidelines.

“We know it is a very trying time for students and we acknowledge the numerous sacrifices they have made. We also understand the urge to visit friends and classmates, but whether you are a student or not, household visits or gatherings should not be happening at this time,” she added.