Dying from the flu

Alison Clair

As flu deaths rise, the numbers in people receiving vaccines are not according to a rural GP. Image Credit: Flickr

The total number of flu-related deaths has risen to 21 in the last week, although hospitalisations for the virus have decreased.

According to the latest influenza weekly report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, the A (H1N1) strain, also known as swine flu, and related strains have been on the rise over the last few weeks.

“I have a lot of elderly patients and many decline the vaccine so as not to get the flu. I administrated about four hundred vaccines this winter, but I should have given over a thousand,” said Dr Tomás Ó’Ceallaigh, a GP in Foxford Co. Mayo.

Dr Ó’Ceallaigh also added how in his experience “students usually aren’t interested in receiving the vaccine as they feel they will never get the flu, but in a close contact environment like college they really should be.”

It has been reported that there have been a total of 767 hospitalisations of patients with flu related symptoms during the 2018/2019 flu season.

Although the report says the influenza virus cases are decreasing, 215 of these cases were reported in the last week, and the majority of these hospitalisations were associated with influenza A (H1N1) and related strains.

Seventeen per cent of the cases where flu was detected, the patients were found to be co-infected with another respiratory virus.

This flu season there have been increases in all age groups with the highest number of cases reported among 15-64-year-olds. However, as of last week influenza like illnesses (ILI) rates increased in children aged less than 5 years and decreased in older children and adults. As of now, children less than five years old are most at risk of contracting the flu.

Medical card users and HSE employees can avail of the vaccine for free, while private patients will often pay around €20, as an administration fee to receive it.

These charges can be the reason that vaccines become inaccessible to people who cannot afford it, such as students, and people in a lower income bracket.

“As pharmacy students, especially if we’re working in a care setting, we’d definitely opt more often than not to get vaccinated,” said pharmacy student in Trinity College, James McLaughlin.

“Any health care worker is particularly vulnerable and getting them is often good for the safety of the staff and any other vulnerable patients in that healthcare setting,” he continued.

He went on to say that vaccines should be given to all health science students, but “seasonal flu vaccines should ideally be left for vulnerable groups because they are expensive and for the most part unnecessary for you average
student” plus each year it’s a different seasonal flu vaccine so requiring everyone to get one I don’t think it would be necessary.

Influenza activity is increasing in Europe and in other countries, with the HSE advising people to receive the flu vaccines following reports of three influenza outbreaks last week. Two of these were in hospitals and one was reported in a HSE nursing home.

Alison Clair

Image Credit: Flickr