Flu cases in Northern Ireland have jumped dramatically in the past week, with cases of swine flu up by almost 200%.
Out-of-hours services experienced a massive 114% increase in flu-related calls during the week ending on Boxing Day.
The number of swine flu cases increased from 45 in the previous week to 129, a jump of 186%, and there were 17 influenza B detections, compared to only three in the previous week. The majority of these detections were in the under 65 age group. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) weekly detection increased by 29%, with 22 cases diagnosed last week in Northern Ireland.
The Public Health Agency is now advising the public to take extra care to prevent the risk of catching or spreading the flu virus.
Dr Brian Smyth, consultant in health protection with the PHA, said: “Over the past few weeks we have seen a continued significant rise in the number of seasonal flu cases.
“As we expect the flu viruses to continue to circulate for the next few weeks, it is vital that at-risk individuals get vaccinated.”
Dr Smyth advised the public to take actions to help protect themselves and combat the spread of flu.
“Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, throw the tissue in the bin and wash your hands as soon as you can.
“These measures can prevent all flu and flu-like illnesses.
“If you do get flu this year, our advice is to stay at home and don’t spread your infection to others.
“Rest, stay warm, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies if they make you feel more comfortable,” he said.
Cases of flu also rose in Britain last week with incidents increasing by 50%.
The Royal College of General Practitioners reported that number had reached 124 per 100,000 in England and Wales.
Twelve more people have died in mainland Britain from confirmed flu in the past week, taking the current death toll to 39.
Data released by Britain’s Health Protection Agency showed 39 people have died with flu since October, including 36 with swine flu and three with another strain, flu type B.
All except one victim were under 65 years of age and four were under the age of five.