Press Release

Minister Martin comments on increase in cases of influenza-like illness

Commenting today on the information release by the National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) showing a marked increase in the number of cases of influenza-like illness in Ireland during the last week, the Minister for Health and Children once again, stressed the importance of the influenza vaccination for those at risk groups and health-care workers.

“Although the data are preliminary, the NDSC figures are showing that the rate of influenza reported in the last week is the highest rate reported at this time of year since surveillance began in 2000. I have met today with officials from the NDSC and the Irish Medicines Board to discuss what further measures may be needed in the light of this information. The Department of Health and Children has written to all Health Board CEO’s asking them to advise General Practitioners and Accident and Emergency Departments of the current situation. The NDSC will be also circulating technical advice to GP’s and other appropriate health care professionals throughout the country. The Department will hold a further briefing session with the Health Board Chief Executive Officers this afternoon.”

“I would strongly urge those most at-risk of influenza infection to get the vaccine. Vaccines have already been distributed to health boards and GP practices throughout the country. I would also urge GP´s to ensure that the ´at risk´ patients in their practice are contacted and invited to attend for vaccination as soon as possible.

The vaccine is available free of charge from GP´s to medical card holders who are deemed to be at risk of serious illness as a result of contracting the disease. In circumstances where a patient is in an “at risk” group but is not a medical card holder, there is no charge for the vaccine as this is provided free of charge to GP’s from Health Board supplies; however, the fee for administering the vaccine in such cases is a matter between the GP and the patient.”

The “at risk” groups include persons-

  • Aged 65 or older
  • People with severe illness such as chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease or kidney and diabetes
  • Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment, including those who have had their spleens removed
  • Children or teenagers on long-term aspirin therapy
  • Residents of nursing homes, old people´s homes and other long stay facilities
  • Health care workers should also be given the vaccine both for their own protection and for their patient´s protection.

The Minister stated “the National Disease Surveillance Centre and the office of the Chief medical Officer at the Department of Health and Children are continuing to monitor the situation and are in on-going contact with their colleagues in the UK regarding this matter.”