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Hospitals under pressure as flu cases to peak

Hospitals are coming under increasing pressure as cases of respiratory illness near its peak, while injuries caused by the icy weather are also rising, the HSE has said.

Dr Gerry McCarthy, the HSE’s Clinical Lead for the National Clinical Programme for Emergency Medicine, said infectious diseases are expected to peak within the next two weeks.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said that the country is seeing a “steady increase in Covid, certainly a 77% week-on-week (increase)”.

“There has also been a 92% increase in flu, but RSV is more stable than that,” he added.

“We’re seeing the usual rise in infectious diseases a little bit later this year than last year so we’re expecting it to peak in the next week or two.”

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Dr McCarthy urged people to treat their symptoms at home rather than attending a hospital where possible, but said anyone with respiratory symptoms who do attend an emergency department should wear a mask.

He said: “If a person comes to hospital with any suggestion of respiratory illness and they’re not already wearing a mask, they certainly (will) be provided with one and all staff dealing with them will be masked up.

“Many hospitals are deciding on their own bat, based on their local data of what kinds of patients and how many inffective illnesses are coming in, to have mandatory mask wearing.

“I think we should be increasing the wearing of masks at the moment.”

The HSE has said that the cold weather has seen a significant increase in emergency department attendances for slips, trips and falls.

Dr McCarthy, who is a consultant in emergency medicine at Cork University Hospital, urged people to take precautions during the cold snap.

He said: “Walk on the sunny side of the street because that tends to be less icy.

“Ask yourself, do you really need to go for that run before work this morning or can it wait till later? And will the paper still be in the shop if I wait a couple of hours before going to get it.

“And most importantly, stop looking at your phone as you’re walking along.”

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