Limerick health officials warn of rise in Covid and flu cases

Dr Mai Mannix, Director Public Health Mid West

WITH 186 new cases of flu recorded over the past four days, health officials are urging the public to “stay at home and avoid socialising” to help stop the spread of winter respiratory illnesses and ease overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick.

In a statement issued this morning, a spokesman for the Department of Public Health Mid-West appealed to people in Limerick, Clare, and North Tipperary to refrain from meeting others outside their household “if they are showing signs of cold and flu”.

“The region is experiencing a significant rise in respiratory infections, and this is having a considerable negative impact on our health service, which is experiencing unprecedented levels of pressure,” the spokesman explained.

The department has advised employers and employees that “social activity and attending work while unwell will increase the risk of outbreaks in the community and in healthcare settings.

“Covid-19 and flu are widely circulating in the community, which means outbreaks are more likely to occur in busy healthcare settings, including hospitals and long-term care facilities.

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The department is investigating 15 Covid outbreaks in long-term care facilities, involving more than 200 cases among residents and staff.

Four long-term care facilities in the region have confirmed more than 20 cases, according to latest provisional data published by the department.

“In the past seven days, Public Health Mid-West has been notified of 582 Covid cases in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary. This is more than double the level in the week before Christmas Day,” the spokesman said.

273 flu cases were recorded in the region during the week ending December 24, which was almost double the previous week. At the end of December, another 246 cases were confirmed in the region.

The Department has been notified of 186 new cases of flu over the past four days.

Public Health Mid-West Director Dr Mai Mannix, said people socialising over the Christmas and New Year had “likely led to significant transmission of respiratory diseases.

“We are likely to have higher numbers of people with flu and Covid throughout January, which will have an impact on our health service,” Dr Mannix warned.

However, she said “we can reduce this burden by staying at home if we are unwell, availing of Covid and flu vaccines, and avoid visiting vulnerable or elderly relatives if unwell”.

Dr Mannix also urged the public to consider all healthcare alternatives to the emergency department at UHL, which is experiencing record high attendances.

ShannonDoc, the region’s out-of-hours GP service, warned that callers were likely to face delays and difficulties accessing its phone lines during peak times as it deals with unprecedented volumes of calls.