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Press Releases - 2007

First case of winter influenza identified


The National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL) has identified the first case of influenza A virus this winter. The case was detected by a network of 49 sentinel general practices who report weekly on the number of patients with influenza-like illness.

The network was established by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, in partnership with the Irish College of General Practitioners and the NVRL in 2000.

Commenting on the case, HPSC Specialist in Public Health Medicine, Dr Derval Igoe said that the first confirmed case of influenza in Ireland this season is a reminder to all people in high-risk groups get vaccinated against influenza now.

"These include:

"The symptoms of influenza infection usually develop over a matter of a few hours and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat. This is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature. Anyone in the high risk categories who develops influenza symptoms should contact their GP."

Influenza has been detected slightly earlier this year than last year's influenza season, when the first case was reported in November 2006. Overall a total of 126 laboratory confirmed cases of influenza were detected through the sentinel network during the 2006/2007 season, peaking in February 2007.

The weekly influenza surveillance reports along with further information on influenza and flu vaccine are available at www.hpsc.ie and www.immunisation.ie.

Voluntary screening identifies 290 previously unknown HIV cases in women over four year period


A new report published today (Friday) by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, shows that voluntary antenatal HIV testing in Ireland identified 290 previously unknown cases of HIV in pregnant women, in the four years from 2002 to 2005.

Welcoming the findings, HPSC specialist in Public Health, Dr Aidan O’Hora, said that early detection of HIV in pregnant women can dramatically reduce or prevent transmission from mother to child.

"Studies report that the combined effects of interventions can reduce transmission from 15 - 35% to 2% or less and because measures to prevent mother to child transmission can only be offered if infection is diagnosed before childbirth, early detection is vital.

"HIV prevalence among women who availed of antenatal screening ranged from 0.25% and 0.31% between 2002 and 2005, which is roughly in line with the European average. The number of cases newly diagnosed through antenatal screening decreased from 113 in 2002 to 94 in 2003, 40 in 2004 and 43 in 2005, which mirrors the trend seen in the national HIV case based reporting system.

"The objectives of HIV testing during pregnancy are to identify women who are HIV positive so that they can avail of appropriate treatment and care, to decrease the incidence of mother to child transmission and to prevent the transmission of HIV to sexual partners of pregnant women," he said.
 
The full report is available at http://www.hpsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/HepatitisHIVAIDSandSTIs/HIVandAIDS/AntenatalHIVTesting/Report/

HPSC urges high-risk categories to get vaccinated against flu as cases more than double in two weeks


The Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Tuesday) urged people in high-risk categories to get vaccinated against influenza, as the number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) reported in Ireland has more than doubled in the past two weeks.

The rate of ILI cases has risen to 44.5 per 100,000 population from a previous rate of 22.5 per 100,000.

"As influenza is now circulating in the community, it is important that people in high-risk categories get vaccinated against influenza," says HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Joan O'Donnell.

High-risk categories include:

"We are advising health professionals to use antiviral drugs for the prevention or treatment of influenza in high-risk groups.

"The symptoms of influenza infection usually develop over a matter of a few hours and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat. This is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature. Anyone in one of the high-risk categories should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms," said Dr O'Donnell.

ILI rates give an indication of the overall level of influenza activity in Ireland and are reported by selected general practitioners as part of a surveillance system jointly run by the Irish College of General Practitioners, the National Virus Reference Laboratory and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The weekly influenza surveillance reports and further information on influenza and flu vaccine are available at www.hpsc.ie.


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