24 people have died from flu since before Christmas

Health officials believe the flu season has peaked either last week or this week

24 people have died from flu since before Christmas

Dr Kevin Kelleher from the HSE. Image: Stephanie Grogan

24 people have died from flu since before Christmas, according to the latest HSE figures.

Health officials say the current outbreak gripping the country is the fifth worst since 2000.

Middle-aged and elderly people are currently the worst affected.

Dr Kevin Kelleher from the HSE believes the flu outbreak has now peaked.

At a briefing today, he explained: "There's been just been a little bit of an increase this week - nowhere near the same degree of upsurge we've seen in the previous two or three weeks.

"That would suggest that either last week or this week will be the peak."

Figures from both the HSE and INMO have shown that are still hundreds of people on trolleys in Irish hospitals waiting for beds.

The HSE's figures from this morning - 394 patients waiting for a bed - indicated a more than 4% increase compared to the number this day last year.

Health officials say they cannot determine yet how many of the patients are affected by the current flu outbreak.

Damien McCallion is the National Director for the HSE’s Winter Initiative noted: "The system is still under pressure - the flu season is still there, and we're hitting our peak.

"There's a lag in terms of how that impacts on hospitals. We anticipate hospitals and community services being under pressure for the next three or four weeks."

Reporting by Stephanie Grogan and Stephen McNeice