There has been a “sharp increase” in the number of flu and COVID cases since early December, the national lead for the HSE’s COVID Vaccination Programme has said.
Ahead of the winter, HSE officials briefed hospitals that a so-called ‘twindemic’ of COVID and flu cases was likely to put huge pressure on the health service this winter.
Last week, the HSE’s Chief Operations Officer said hospitals are “certainly under strain” and now Eileen Whelan said that case numbers have surged in recent weeks.
“This Christmas and this winter is different to the previous winters that we’ve had,” she told The Pat Kenny Show.
“The two previous winters, COVID was the dominant virus that was out there; prior to that, the influenza virus was the dominant virus.
“But this year, we’re actually seeing an interplay between both the influenza virus and the COVID virus.”
Pat Kenny himself recently took a few days off work because of COVID and while he said he did not have it “bad”, he added that it “still wasn’t pleasant.”
“For many people, it will be a mild illness but actually there is a percentage of people and we don’t know who those people might be,” Ms Whelan added.
“We do know that as you age, you’re more at risk of having greater severity of illness.
“So, I would be encouraging people who are in the eligible categories to get their flu vaccine and to make sure they’ve had their COVID boosters.”
Currently, the HSE is offering a third booster to individuals over the age of 65 or those over 12 who have a weak immune system.
A flu vaccine can be booked at a GP surgery or pharmacy.
Main image: Woman blowing her nose into paper handkerchief on the bus on a cold winter day. Picture by: Igor Stevanovic / Alamy