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Ireland’s swine flu death toll hits 11

Ireland’s swine flu death toll hits 11

Five more people have died from swine flu, bringing the death toll from the virus to 11 so far this winter.

It remains the dominant form of flu circulating, accounting for most hospitalisations and admissions of patients to critical care.

There have been 15 deaths from flu this winter, with other casualties due to the B strain of the virus.

The average age of patients who died from the flu is 63 years. A five-year-old boy was among those who have died from the complications of swine flu.

Hospitals continue to report that healthy children are among those treated for complications of flu along with at-risk groups.

Visiting restrictions have had to be enforced in University Hospital Limerick due to the flu.

The restrictions have also been imposed on Ennis Hospital and Nenagh Hospital as they grapple with the high incidence of flu in the mid-west region.

A spokesman said that, in a bid to protect vulnerable patients, the group of hospitals was asking people who were considering visiting a friend or relative to ensure they do not do so if they had flu-like symptoms.

The group is limiting visits to one visitor per patient during the flu season and visitors are reminded that children under 14 are not allowed to visit.

Swine flu accounted for most of the outbreaks last week, while GPs are seeing a lot of youngsters aged five to 14 years with influenza-like illness.

Flu continues to put pressure on emergency departments. Beaumont Hospital in Dublin is cancelling all non-urgent surgery today again to free up beds to cope with the trolley crisis.

Meanwhile, Dr Ray Walley, President of the Irish Medical Organisation, warned the public health service was "perilously close to collapse and in urgent need of emergency attention".

He blamed years of cutbacks in essential services, a manpower crisis fuelled by record emigration of Irish-trained doctors, and a 10-year-long "national emergency" in our emergency departments.

He claimed that doctors are leaving for the UK at a rate of one every day because of poor working conditions, exacerbated by a loss of around €7.7bn in investment in the health service over the last seven years.

"This is the biggest challenge facing Ireland now and in the years ahead.

"Five years ago, we moved heaven and earth to rescue failed Irish banks; surely we can now do the same to rescue the Irish health service on which all of us ultimately depend.

"What we need now is an immediate investment programme, followed by a period of sustained funding so that we can repair the damage done," he added.