A CORK GP has warned that a major spike in flu cases has hit local hospitals and he urged patients to stay at home.
Local GP Dr John Sheehan has seen a large number of flu cases come through the South Doc out-of-hours service and at his practice in Blackpool, with the young and elderly particularly badly affected.
“We received a warning a couple of weeks before Christmas about viral infection and since then there has been a big increase,” he said.
“We have unfortunately seen a large number of cases in recent weeks and have done a number of house calls.
“A lot of people are quite sick, particularly elderly people and young children.”
Dr Sheehan said that patients were being “completely wiped out” by the virus, which presents with symptoms including high temperatures, joint pain and extreme tiredness. The length of time spent sick is also notable, as people with flu are usually out of action for about a week.
The main advice for patients is to stay home and rest, to avoid spreading the illness.
“There have been outbreaks in workplaces including the mental health ward in the CUH.
“It's important to stay home and not go into work and spread it to more people.”
The Irish Pharmacy Union yesterday echoed advice by the HSE for individuals in at-risk categories, including pregnant women and the elderly, to avail of the flu vaccine.
“The flu vaccination is the best way to reduce the chances that a patient will get the flu and spread it to others,” said pharmacist Ann Marie Horan.
“We would encourage patients, especially at-risk patients, who include elderly people, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses, to visit their local pharmacy to get the flu vaccine now."
“It is not too late. The service is available free of charge from pharmacists to anyone who holds a medical card.”
The current outbreak is taking place as record numbers of patients wait on trolleys in Emergency Departments, with hospitals appealing to patients with flu symptoms to telephone or visit their GPs or South Doc in the first instance, rather than presenting at EDs. Those who have had flu symptoms in the past four days are also asked to avoid visiting patients.
The INMO's Trolley Watch figures yesterday revealed a record number of 612 patients admitted for care on trolleys in hospitals nationwide. There were 33 trolleys counted in Cork University Hospital and 26 in the Mercy University Hospital.
INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said that given the union have serious concerns that these figures will rise further in the coming days unless action is taken.
He said: “612 patients, admitted for care, for whom there is no bed, is a truly shocking figure.
“The compromising of care, not to mention the loss of privacy and dignity, cannot go unchallenged and must be acknowledged and addressed by health management.” “Our genuine fear is, based upon a number of factors including the incidence of influenza and closed beds due to staff shortages, that, in the coming days, the situation may deteriorate still further.
“An emergency response is now required and this must be forthcoming, from health management, immediately.”