Press Release

Statement on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009

As a result of recent changes in the diagnosis and treatment of Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, patients are now diagnosed and managed clinically by their General Practitioner. Swabs will, therefore, no longer be routinely taken from patients and sent for viral testing. The number of laboratory confirmed cases has, therefore, ceased to be a reliable indicator of the burden of infection.

As of 29th July 2009, an estimated number of cases will be provided based on information derived from the National Influenza Sentinel GP Surveillance Network and reported on a weekly basis through the websites of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health and Children. This gives a good estimate of the numbers of cases of influenza like illness being seen by GPs.

This system shows that influenza like illness rates have increased in recent weeks and the latest of these reports a rate of 37 cases per 100,000 population in the week ending 26th July 2009. By way of context, the peak reported Influenza like illness rate during last winter was approximately 120 per 100,000.

The National Influenza Sentinel GP Surveillance Network was established in 2000 in collaboration with the ICGP. There are similar systems in place in most developed countries. It gathers reports of patients with influenza like illness each week from a network of 60 sentinel practices and provides them to the HPSC and through it to the European Influenza Surveillance Network (EISN). The HPSC uses this data to provide national estimates in the form of a number of cases of influenza like illness per 100,000 population. Over the years, this has proved to be an accurate indicator of influenza activity both internationally and in Ireland.

We would again advise people of the personal measures they can take to reduce their chances of catching flu and these include;

  • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and frequently. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective if washing facilities are not available.
  • Avoid unnecessary close contact with people who have influenza or have symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, fever or shivering.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissues when sneezing, coughing, wiping and blowing your nose.
  • Dispose of used tissues in the nearest waste bin.
  • Wash your hands after coughing and sneezing.
  • It is important to ensure that all household surfaces that are touched by hands are kept clean, especially bedside tables, surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens and childrens toys. Such surfaces should be wiped regularly with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.

Dr. Tony Holohan Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health and Children outlined ” As we have been saying consistently, we have anticipated, and continue to anticipate, an increase in the number of cases. We are continuing our preparations for all eventualities and are also preparing a vaccination programme. We would reassure people that the vast majority of cases can be successfully managed at home using medication available over the counter including paracetemol.”

Further information is available on the websites of the Department of Health and Children, Health Service Executive and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre