MORE than 50 people were admitted to Cork University Hospital (CUH) with flu in the first 15 days of 2019, it can be revealed.
CUH had 51 patients admitted with influenza so far this year with the HSE warning of increased admissions as flu season ramps up in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, patients were also admitted to Mercy University Hospital with the illness since the turn of the year and both hospitals introduced visiting restrictions last week.
CUH has been amongst the most overcrowded hospitals since the beginning of 2019 and has seen more than 400 patients on trolleys or in wards awaiting beds since the turn of the year.
A spike in presentations of flu last week saw 70 awaiting a bed on one day alone while patients and carers have described the Emergency Department at the hospital as crazy.
There have been six deaths this season likely directly linked to flu, the HSE has confirmed.
HSE figures released last week show that 151 patients have been admitted to hospital with influenza so far this season and that most of these cases involved children and people over 65 years.
Around 60-120 deaths annually are directly linked to flu and 300-450 are indirectly linked to it, according to the HSE.
Public health specialist Dr Fiona Ryan recently warned that while the flu is a mild illness for some it can be very serious and even cause death for others.
Her warning comes just two weeks after the Echo revealed two people have been hospitalised in CUH with swine flu, also known as Influenza A (H1N1).
The HSE’s influenza monitoring system involved collecting information from GPs, hospitals and laboratories across Ireland.
“All of these indicate that the flu season is about to take off,” Dr Ryan warned.
“Usually it stays up for a few weeks and then goes down again,” she added.
“All indications are is that it’s on the up.”
Dr Ryan explained that this year’s flu vaccination is a good match to the strains in circulation and it is not too late to get vaccinated.
She also revealed that the recent surge in meningitis cases is a result of the flu season spike and warned of a further increase in Cork/Kerry.
Three people have died from meningitis and 11, including one in Cork/Kerry, have been diagnosed with the bug since Christmas Eve.
Another possible case is also being investigated.