HSE says flu actively circulating in community

The HSE has issued an appeal to members of the public to help prevent the spread of flu, as the latest figures show that the disease is now actively circulating in the community.

They are advising people to be aware of the symptoms, and for those in high-risk groups who are most vulnerable get the vaccine.

The symptoms of influenza usually develop over a matter of a few hours and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat.

"This is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature,” said Dr Una Fallon, director of public health in the Midlands.

The flu vaccine is a safe and effective prevention measure against flu and it is provided free of charge for people in at-risk groups, which includes everyone aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, anyone over six months of age with a long-term illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment.

The vaccine is also recommended for all healthcare workers to protect themselves and those they care for.”

The HSE's advice to anyone who gets the flu is to stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms.

Anyone in one of the at-risk groups who develops flu symptoms, or anyone who is not in an at-risk group, but whose flu symptoms are severe or getting worse, should contact their GP, who may wish to prescribe antiviral medication.

If you need to visit your GP or the emergency department, please phone first to explain that you might have flu.

Covering your cough and sneeze can also help stop the spread of flu. Use a tissue and place it immediately in the bin. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer; if you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve; and don’t cough or sneeze into your hands. If you do, wash your hands immediately to prevent spreading germs on the surfaces you touch.

The HSE has a dedicated self-care website www.undertheweather.ie which provides tips and advice in relation to common winter illnesses, including flu.