Influenza or Flu is a highly infectious and very common infection. Most flu outbreaks happen in late autumn or winter. There are many different strains of the flu virus. Symptoms of flu include, fever (high temperature), headaches, sore throat, weakness and exhaustion, all over aches and pains. Symptoms can last for up to 7 days and affects people of all ages. The advised treatment for the Flu is rest and staying hydrated – You may need to stay in bed until your symptoms improve.

In some rare cases the winter flu can cause serious complications such as pneumonia.

The current vaccine is designed to protect against the viruses responsible for causing most cases of Flu. The flu vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies to the influenza virus. If you have been vaccinated and you come into contact with the virus, these antibodies will attack it and stop you from getting sick. The flu vaccine starts to work within two weeks. This is a convenient way to stay protected from flu.

Flu is more severe in people aged 50 years and over, pregnant women, and anyone with a long-term medical condition. The HSE is urging people in at-risk groups to get the flu vaccine.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has confirmed that at-risk patients are:

  • persons aged 50 years and older;
  • persons 6 months – 69 years old with a chronic illness requiring regular follow up, e.g. chronic respiratory disease (including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma and bronchopulmonary dysplasia), chronic heart disease (including acute coronary syndrome), chronic renal failure, diabetes mellitus, haemoglobinopathies, chronic liver disease, chronic neurological disease (including multiple sclerosis and hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system);
  • those who are immunosuppressed due to disease or treatment including those with missing or non functioning spleens;
  • all cancer patients;
  • patients with any condition that can compromise respiratory function, e.g. spinal cord injury, seizure or other neuromuscular disorder, especially those attending special schools or day centres;
  • children and adults with Down syndrome;
  • those with morbid obesity, i.e. body mass index over 40;
  • all pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy (QIV only);
  • healthcare workers;
  • residents of nursing homes and other long-stay institutions;
  • carers;
  • household contacts of at-risk persons;
  • out-of-home care givers to at-risk persons;
  • people with regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl.

In addition, in relation to children:

  • children with moderate to severe neurodevelopment disorders such as cerebral palsy and intellectual disability;
  • children on long-term aspirin (because of Reye’s syndrome).
  • If you are in one of the medically At-Risk groups you are entitled to a free flu vaccine.
  • All persons older than 65 years of age are entitled to a free flu vaccine
  • All children aged between 2 and 12 years are entitled to a free flu vaccine
  • If you are aged between 13 and 64 and are not in any of the At Risk Categories, you will pay full price for a flu vaccine at €26