Public Urged To Prevent Spread Of Winter Infections

The HSE is urging the public to help prevent the spread of winter related infectious diseases, which are likely to increase in incidence over the coming months.

Some diseases circulate more widely in winter and we can all play our part in curtailing their spread by following simple steps.

"Washing our hands regularly and covering our coughs and sneezes are important interventions to stop diseases like flu, winter vomiting bug and Respiratory Syncytial Virus infection (RSV) from spreading," said Dr John Cuddihy, the Director of the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Flu cases have increased over the last few weeks and its incidence will continue to rise over the winter. Influenza-like illness has increased in all age groups. Hospitalised cases of influenza and influenza associated outbreaks in residential care facilities are also increasing, while we have already seen an increase in RSV and the winter vomiting bug.

Remember the following points to prevent spreading your disease:

• Covering your cough and sneeze can stop the spread of germs that make people sick.

• DO use a tissue and place it immediately in the bin. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer.

• DO cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.

• DON'T cough or sneeze into your hands. You'll end up spreading germs to everything you touch.

The flu vaccine is a safe and effective prevention measure against flu and it is provided free of charge for people in at risk groups, which includes everyone aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, anyone over six months of age with a long term illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, diabetes, cancer or those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment. The vaccine is also recommended for all healthcare workers.

Vaccination remains the most effective means of preventing infection by seasonal influenza viruses and can reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalisation and death. The vaccine takes two weeks to take effect once received.

The influenza vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for people in at risk groups, and from pharmacists for everyone in at risk groups aged 10 years and over. An administration charge may apply to people who don't hold medical cards or GP visit cards.

Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms. Anyone in one of the high-risk groups should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms. If you need to visit your GP or the Emergency Department, please phone first to explain that you might have flu.


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