ELDERLY people are particularly vulnerable to the new strain of influenza which is affecting people across Ireland, a Cork GP has warned.
The HSE admitted that the current flu jab will not fully protect against this new strain of influenza B as the sudden surge was not predicted.
It comes as the latest figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation show 575 patients are on hospital trolleys today with 46 awaiting beds in CUH.
The new flu strain has surged and accounts for up to 60% of cases in some parts of the community.
Influenza B is a relatively common flu in Ireland but this latest strain is a particularly strong subtype according to Dr John Sheehan of the Blackpool Bridge Surgery, Cork.
“What they try to do every year with the flu vaccine is they try to determine which subtype of flu is likely to occur in Ireland and they develop a vaccine to combat that.
“Some years they get it spot on and some years they don’t while some years the strain is just stronger.
“This is the case with this new strain of influenza B, it’s a particularly strong strain,” he added.
“I’ve seen a number of people and they’re whacked, it’s like they’ve been hit by a train.
“We’re continuing to see an increase, in our surgery here, and in hospitals on a national level of people presenting with flu.” While this new strain causes the same symptoms as the ‘Aussie flu,’ Dr Sheehan warned that older people are particularly susceptible to it.
“There is concern that the vaccine, while still recommended, doesn’t have the same impact on the elderly as they originally thought so they may have to look at that whether they need to maybe give two doses of the vaccine in future.
“Some elderly people’s immune systems don’t seem to be able to respond to the vaccine and they’re not getting as much protection as you’d hope from it.
“In children, it seems to work on about two thirds,” he added.
“Certainly going into the future the WHO and HSE are going to have to look at vaccination programmes.” Dr Sheehan’s surgery in Blackpool has ordered more vaccinations in the past week with the flu season expected to continue.
“There’s still so much flu around and people are getting very sick with it so we would strongly recommend getting the vaccine, it’s certainly not too late,” he said.
“The flu season started a little late last year so it’s predicted to continue for another few weeks unfortunately, “The big message for people is, if they have it, stay out of work, stay out of school, stay out of college, certainly don’t visit a hospital or nursing home,” he added.
“If it gets into a nursing home, it causes havoc there unfortunately.”