HSE media release

Thursday, 27th January 2011

HSE and HPSC weekly seasonal influenza update

The latest weekly influenza surveillance report from the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) indicates that flu activity has peaked and is now declining.

The number of people presenting with flu-like-illness (ILI) to GPs has dropped to a rate of 110 per 100,000, down from 171.4 per 100,000 last week. The drop has occurred in all age groups except for those aged 5 to 14 years. This fall has also been seen in the number of flu related calls to GP out of hours on call services. So far this season, 749 cases have been hospitalised with flu. Of these, 72% have been due to the H1N1 (2009) influenza strain. Over the past couple of weeks, the proportion of all hospitalised cases that have been due to influenza B has risen and now stands at 17%.

The rise in influenza B highlights the importance of getting seasonal vaccine for those in the at risk groups. It’s still not too late to get the vaccine from your GP. Although intensity is declining, influenza is still circulating in the community, and seasonal vaccination provides good protection against all types of flu.

In total, 98 people have been admitted to critical care (ICU) with influenza; 87 adults and 11 children. Forty three are currently in ICU. Overall, 70% have underlying medical conditions including chronic respiratory disease, chronic heart disease, immunosuppression, pregnancy, metabolic disorders and morbid obesity. 85% of those admitted to ICU have been aged less than 65 years.

To date, 12 deaths associated with influenza have been reported to HPSC. Ten were due to H1N1 (2009), and two to influenza B. Eleven had underlying conditions. One death was in a patient in the 0-4 year age group, seven patients were in the 15-64 year age group and four patients were aged 65 years and older. Two of the deaths occurred in the South, two were in the West and 8 were in the eastern part of the country.

The number of mortalities in the weekly report is compiled from deaths where influenza is listed as a contributory cause of death on the death certificate. It is expected that some additional deaths, which have not yet been formally notified as influenza associated deaths, pending the issuing of death certificates by coroners, may be reported in the coming weeks.

The weekly influenza report for week 3 2011 is available at the HPSC website at this link