HSE says flu cases quadruple in Mid West and have not yet peaked

University Hospital Limerick

FLU cases in Limerick and the Mid West have quadrupled in two weeks and University Hospital Limerick is dealing with a huge wave of patients with respiratory illness being admitted to hospital.

In a statement issued this Wednesday (January 3), a hospital spokesman said that the Mid West region has been “experiencing a surge in influenza and Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations, and outbreaks in healthcare settings in recent weeks”.

“On the week of December 17, flu cases had quadrupled in the space of two weeks, which was the first major spike in the region this flu season”.

Medical experts expect the flu infection numbers to reach a peak in the next two to three weeks. But, in the intervening period, pressures on the health service will increase, including GP presentations, emergency department presentations, hospital admissions, and outbreaks in long-term care facilities.

Covid-19 continues to circulate at high levels with, with slight increases in recent weeks, a statement from the HSE confirmed.

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The new JN.1 variant “is fast becoming the dominant strain. The variant may be more transmissible than previous variants, resulting in more infections.”

“Consequently, this may contribute to more cases overall, again increasing demand for services and leading to outbreaks in healthcare settings.”

While RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is steadily declining following its peak in early December, it continues to widely circulate in the community, posing a serious risk of bronchiolitis in young children and severe illness in older adults.

With acute respiratory illnesses, only a small proportion of cases will get tested. This means that all reported figures are expected to be substantially lower than the real incidence of disease circulating in the community.

“Based on provisional data, we believe there is concerning and widespread circulation of disease in the community,” the HSE spokesman warned.

“Christmas and New Year social activity will likely lead to a further substantial increase in acute respiratory infections in the community. While we can anticipate this increase, we can significantly reduce this burden by staying at home or avoiding social activity if feeling unwell.

“It’s not too late for anyone who has not yet been vaccinated for flu and Covid to get their vaccine if they’re eligible because it will help prevent serious illness and it will help prevent the spread of these illnesses to people who are more vulnerable.

“You can go to the GP or pharmacy to get your vaccine, check the HSE website for more information”

“We again urge the public to avail of any other health services if they are unwell, including the GP, urgent out of hours service ShannonDoc, injury units, and any other setting which avoids use of emergency departments if it’s not clinically necessary or a life threatening episode. More information is available at HSE.ie.”