HSE warns of increase in flu and Covid over coming weeks

The HSE have reported an increase in patients presenting at emergency departments with respiratory illnesses.

538 people with the flu and 282 people with Covid-19 attended emergency departments this week alone, an increase of 312 (flu) and 144 (Covid-19) from last week.

The HSE have warned that increasing community infection rates will lead to increased risk of outbreaks in hospitals, nursing homes and residential care facilities, potentially affecting the most vulnerable people.  There are currently 30 outbreaks of COVID in hospitals and 24 in nursing homes, again an increase from last week.

Yesterday (Thursday, December 28th), there were 119 people on trolleys (87 in ED and 32 on a ward) compared to 443 on the same date last year. A further 124 patients were occupying surge beds compared to 375 on the same date last year. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, there were 357 people in hospital ready for discharge and awaiting suitable non-acute care, compared to 475 people on the same date last year.

According to Dr James Gilroy, Specialist Registrar in Public Health Medicine with the Department of Public Health HSE Dublin and South East, “Rates of COVID-19 and flu are rising now and over next few weeks, which will put significant pressure on hospitals and Residential Care Facilities in the short term.  As with all bank holiday weekends, but in particular this very busy New Years’ weekend, Emergency Departments are expected to encounter significant pressures as a result and we know from experience that a delayed peak in flu season such as we are seeing now, will inevitably lead to further pressures throughout the healthcare system with heightened risk of outbreaks in all facilities and delays discharging patients to nursing homes or step down facilities if they have flu or COVID-19.

“This increase in viruses circulating obliges anyone with respiratory symptoms to avoid visiting hospitals and nursing homes if we have respiratory symptoms. Every healthcare setting is assessing the risks locally and monitoring their own local risks, and this may lead them to take additional measures in certain settings, such as the wearing of masks if deemed necessary. Such measures will help protect those who may be more vulnerable to the effects of these infections and avoid impact on services at a very busy time of year. There is no room for complacency and I urge people to follow public health advice – stay at home if you have symptoms and get vaccinated – before we reach the peak of flu season in the very near future.”

Martina Queally, Chief Officer, HSE Community Healthcare East, comments: “Children, older people, pregnant women, people with a disability and those with a long-term illness are particularly affected by winter viruses. Topping up your protection and availing of the flu and COVID vaccination if you are eligible remains the best way to reduce the incidence of these respiratory illnesses. Knowing how to manage common illnesses and where to go if you need medical assistance will also make it that bit easier if you, or someone you care for, becomes ill or is injured. There are a number of options available to you depending on what medical assistance you need including an extensive GP Out of Hours service and local injury units. Please consider all the options that are available to you to help determine your best course of action.”

Dr Éamonn O’Moore, Director of National Health Protection, “We are now seeing a sustained rise in the levels of infection with both COVID-19 and seasonal flu, including among people attending emergency departments and being admitted to hospitals. The new JN.1 variant of COVID is fast becoming the dominant strain. This variant may be more transmissible than previous variants, resulting in more infections. We are still collating data in Ireland and internationally on whether it will result in more illness requiring hospital care but at this time we are not seeing that signal. However, with more infection around, there is greater risk some people who are vulnerable could become ill and require hospital care and we still need to protect our vulnerable members of society, children and adults, by doing what we can to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.”

See the HSE website for useful advice on common illnesses such as colds, coughs, flu, earache and sore throats and information on how to keep well in winter.

If you have a story that you think the WicklowNews.Net readers and beyond should know about, we’d love for you to get in touch with us. Submit A Story

Related Stories