Aussie Flu Kills First Victims In Ireland

Lauren Freeman

Journalist

Flu season is never pretty, and the new Aussie flu that's sweeping Britain is already deadly. Since the temperatures dropped last week, 1,111 people were struck with the flu - a 156% jump from the previous week. Specialists claim that this can be the worst outbreak in 50 years. Less than ten people have died in Ireland so far, but 73 have been hospitalized. Irish Health Service Executive is urging people to get vaccinated. This is especially important with people age 65 or more, those suffering from a chronic illness and pregnant women.

Aussie flu is a strain of influenza A that wreaked havoc in Australian hospitals during their winter, bringing in 2.5 times more cases than usual. UK experts fear that this flu might be as deadly as the 1968's Hong Kong flu, which killed one million people. What's worse is that instead of one subtype - either influenza A or B - spreading, both of them are out and about this winter. In England and Wales, there were 522 recorded cases of influenza A and 546 of the B type.

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The hospitals in the UK are already under siege as norovirus has infected 2,117 people. The rate has been steadily increasing since July.

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"Flu activity, as measured by a number of different systems, has continued to increase in the last week or two," said Nick Phin of PHE. "This is to be expected as the season progresses and at this point the numbers are in-keeping with previous years. The circulating flu strains match those in the current flu vaccine, so the vaccine remains the best defence against the virus."

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"Based on the Australian experience public health officials need to meet and urgently review emergency planning procedures," Professor Robert Dingwall, a public health expert at Nottingham Trent University, told the press. "Public Health England should be working with local authorities and local health services to ensure more hospital beds are freed up. We need to be prepared, alert and flexible. There is no point in trying to close the borders. It’s almost inevitable this will come to us. This is potentially the worst winter since the Hong Kong flu outbreak of 1968. Lots of people have been very badly affected in Australia and whilst their mortality rates are not out yet we suspect this is a more severe strain than most other years."

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