Appeal for early vaccinations as bad flu season predicted

It is thought flu is responsible for up to 500 deaths each year

Appeal for early vaccinations as bad flu season predicted

File photo | Image: Martin Keene PA Archive/PA Images

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) is advising people to get their flu vaccine early, with experts predicting a particularly bad flu season this year.

It says people in at-risk categories are strongly advised to avail of the vaccine, and anyone in the at-risk groups who holds a medical card can get the vaccine free of charge at their local pharmacy.

People aged 65 years and over and anyone with a chronic medical condition are considered at higher risk.

Chronic medical conditions include chronic heart conditions, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes mellitus and immunosuppression due to disease or treatment including all cancer patients.

Pregnant women have also been found to be at increased risk of complications from the flu.

A total of 78,935 people were vaccinated across 762 pharmacies in the 2016/17 season.

This is an increase of 26% on the previous season.

Flu season lasts from October to April.

It is estimated that flu is responsible for between 200 and 500 deaths each year in Ireland - mostly among the elderly.

But the IPU says last year was far worse, with three times more deaths than usual.

"This flu season is also expected to be particularly bad", it says.

Australia has reported twice as many cases of the flu this season compared to last year, with twice as many people hospitalised.

IPU President Daragh Connolly explains: "Flu is an extremely contagious respiratory illness. It can lead to serious illness, even death.

"We are strongly advising everyone, but particularly those at-risk, to get the vaccine early this year.

"The more people who get vaccinated, the less flu can spread around the community."