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Donegal GP calls for schools to close over flu outbreak

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A well-known Donegal GP has called for a closure of schools for the next two weeks to prevent the spreading of seasonal influenza.
The call comes as the Health Service Executive (HSE) urged people in high-risk groups to get the flu vaccine as the number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Ireland increased in the week before Christmas. It said there had been a small number, under ten, of deaths directly related to influenza in the last two weeks. Dr James McDaid said he expected a spike in cases in the next week as schools reopen.
He said schools should be closed for two weeks to stop the spread of influenza.
The former Donegal TD and government minister said that schools are willing to close due to bad weather but “when it comes to matters pertaining to medicine, unfortunately, they don’t”.
The Letterkenny GP said his practice has been exceptionally busy in recent days and 90 per cent of the cases are related to influenza-like symptoms.
“Usually flu relates to only ten per cent of the cases,” he said.
“Children come to me, then they go back to schools and they are met with the whole avalanche of the virus and they are back again with me.
“It’s a vicious circle. If you reach a peak you need to close down the schools for two weeks. They are ill and then they are back to school and then they are back to me in three weeks’ time.”
He said he expected a spike in flu cases in January because the schools will be back.
Dr McDaid said it is likely that the strain of flu he is seeing is the so-called Australian flu, and that he would be concerned about people with chronic illness, diabetes and long-term illness.
“We will undoubtedly get a number of people who will succumb to it,” he said.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, Director of the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre said influenza-like illness has increased in all age groups except in those aged up to four years old.
“Hospitalised cases of influenza and influenza-associated outbreaks in residential care facilities have also increased,” he said.
“The HSE has in the last fortnight also been notified of a small number of deaths directly related to influenza (less than 10).’
“These indicators tell us that flu is actively starting to circulate in the community, yet it’s not too late for people at risk to get the vaccine from their GP or Pharmacist. Prevention is better than cure, and the increase in flu activity means it is even more important to get your flu jab if you are in an at-risk group. Initial indications so far point to more people in at-risk groups and more healthcare workers getting the flu vaccine this year. The HSE would urge those who have not yet been vaccinated to join their peers and their colleagues in getting the flu vaccine.”

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