Public urged to stay away from hospitals if they have the flu

Public urged to stay away from hospitals if they have the flu

The South/ South West Group is urging the public to help prevent the spread of infection and viruses such as flu and the vomiting bug by avoiding hospitals, congested emergency departments and contacting GP surgeries by phone, so as not to infect others who may be very unwell already.

Commenting on this, Dr Paul Gallagher, Consultant Geriatrician at Cork University Hospital reminded the public that antibiotics do not work on the flu.

"Mild illnesses such as colds, sore throats, coughs and such like, are usually viral, self-limiting illnesses and can be treated at home with fluids, over-the-counter painkillers and rest. 

"Antibiotics will not work on a viral infection, including flu. 

"Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and take paracetamol or ibuprofen for temperatures, aches and pains," he said.

Dr Gallagher advises that it is not too late to get the flu vaccine. 

It is 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.

"If you have the flu, the advice is to stay in bed and rest, take fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms. 

"By going to the Emergency Department, you are potentially spreading the virus to people who may be in the at-risk groups i.e. sicker, immuno-compromised, elderly or frail people for whom exposure to flu could prove fatal. 

"Only if you are in one of the at-risk categories, or you are an otherwise healthy person who is getting worse a week into a flu-like illness, should you seek medical advice from your GP.

"The flu vaccine is our best protection against the flu virus. 

"The vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies to the flu virus. 

"If you then come into contact with the virus, these antibodies will attack it and reduce your chance of becoming very sick. 

"You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine, and the flu vaccine works within two weeks," Dr Gallagher continued. 

The public is advised to follow the advice provided on www.hse.ie/winter or www.undertheweather.ie 

South/ South West Hospital Group Management has requested that, where appropriate, the public contact their GP/South Doc in the first instance and explore all other options available to them prior to attending the Emergency Department if their needs are not urgent.

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