AS THE flu season approaches concerns have been raised that those most susceptible to flu this year will be young people and pregnant women.
A recent meeting of the emergency department task force has highlighted that Swine Flu is likely to be a dominant strain.
According to the Public Health Agency the Swine Flu virus emerged in 2009 and since then it has become one of the common seasonal influenza viruses in circulation in Northern Ireland.
Dr Brendan O’Hare remarked that the uptake of flu vaccines has been poorer than other years, but not through any fault of the patients, more through disrupted supplies.
“This year has been a tough year for GPs giving out vaccines. Supplies this year have been really haphazard. We’ve had clinics organised and had no vaccines and had to cancel them.
“People have been coming in dribs and drabs, we’re still running the campaign, it’s just going to take a lot longer. We were out of the over 65 vaccine until last week,” he said.
A few weeks ago the distribution of flu vaccines caused gridlock in Lisnaskea as patients queued up to receive the winter jab. The PSNI at the time urged motorists to avoid the town if possible, as the traffic disruption was so great.
As we move further into the winter months the prevalence of flu tends to grow. At the moment a low level of flu is circulating and there are a relatively small number of cases. Flu rates normally tend to peak towards the end of December and beginning of January. The PHA have said that because of this it is “too early to tell which will be the dominant strain this season”.
This peak usually happens as more people travel and attend social gatherings. Last year the outbreaks of flu in nursing homes was the highest ever recorded. The Irish Independent states that there were excess deaths for eleven weeks. Overall there were 255 notified flu deaths in winter 2017/18, reportedly the highest ever recorded.
The PHA reiterated the importance of getting the season jab. As swine flu may be a dominant strain this year it is important to seek a vaccine as this strain is covered by the flu jab.
A spokesman for PHA added, “It is important to remember that the strains of flu virus can vary from year to year, which is why you need to get the vaccination every year.”
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Posted: 9:20 am November 30, 2018