Large scale Covid outbreaks prompts public health warning

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Dr Mai Mannix, Director Public Health Mid West

WITH outbreaks involving more than 80 people, the increasing incidence of Covid-19 across Limerick, Clare, and North Tipperary has prompted the Department of Public Health Mid-West to advise people to be extra cautious of taking part in social activity.

The current high volume of cases may result in delays in data reporting, meaning that data may not be complete and up-to-date. However, preliminary analysis indicates at least 2,300 new cases in the region per day. It is probable the real infection rate is higher due to the unprecedented levels of transmission.

In recent weeks, the department was notified of an outbreak involving more than 80 people in their early 20s and late 30s in a single community in the Mid-West. Transmission occurred over a three-week period and involved multiple sources of exposure including social contact, household contact, education and workplace settings.

A spokesman for the department said they believed that outbreaks of this scale have occurred more frequently since the Christmas season, through multi-household clusters, large family and social gatherings, congregate settings and accommodation, with onward transmission occurring across all settings in the community at a fast rate.

“Our department is actively managing and monitoring Covid in more than 70 settings across the Mid-West, including nursing homes, long-term care facilities, residential care facilities, and vulnerable groups in the population. Due to the current high numbers, these are some of the key settings the department is prioritising in line with national priorities,” the spokesman added.

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Public Health Mid-West Director Dr Mai Mannix said: “The past few weeks have been challenging for many of us, especially during and after the Christmas period where some plans had to be cancelled – often at short notice – due to significant community spread of Covid.

“Like last January, we are now seeing an exponential rise in disease due to widespread onward transmission after Christmas celebrations and continued social activity. This may persist for some time, which is why we urge people to be extra cautious of any social contact,” Dr Mannix explained.

“Omicron is a highly-transmissible variant that can cause serious illness, although research suggests that it may be less severe than the previously dominant Delta variant. It is still impacting significantly on healthcare capacity. However, it is important to appreciate that while some people can have a mild illness, Covid itself is not a mild disease and can still cause severe complications, especially for those who are unvaccinated and at higher risk.

“Our priority over the coming weeks as a community needs to be slowing the transmission as much as possible by limiting contacts and availing of the vaccination if you are eligible for it.”