Flu is now actively circulating in the community, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has warned.
It is urging members of the public to play their part in reducing the risk of infection. It is also calling on people in high-risk groups who have not already done so, to get vaccinated against the illness.
"The ILI (influenza like illness) rate for the week ending December 8 was 37.5 cases per 100,000 population, which is above the baseline threshold of 18.1 cases per 100,00 that is used to assess influenza activity," commented HPSC director, Dr John Cuddihy.
He reminded people that the flu vaccine is a "safe and effective prevention measure against flu", which is provided free of charge to at-risk groups. These include pregnant women, everyone over the age of 65 and those with long-term conditions that require regular medical follow-up, such as heart disease and diabetes.
"The symptoms of influenza usually develop over a matter of a few hours and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat. This is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature," Dr Cuddihy explained.
People who get flu are advised to stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies, such as paracetamol, to ease symptoms.
People in at-risk groups who develop flu symptoms, or those who are not in an at-risk group, but whose flu symptoms are severe or getting worse, should contact their GP.
If you need to visit your GP or the Emergency Department, please phone first to explain that you might have flu.
Meanwhile, covering your cough and sneeze can also help stop the spread of flu. People are advised to use a tissue and bin it immediately after coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands after.
If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve. Do not cough or sneeze into your hands. You'll end up spreading germs to everything you touch.
"The HSE has a dedicated self-care website www.undertheweather.ie which provides tips and advice in relation to common winter illnesses, including flu." Dr Cuddihy added.
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