Swine flu virus killed four people in Ireland this winter
The lives of four people in Ireland were claimed by swine flu over the winter period, as the virus circulates in the country.
News emerged yesterday that a pregnant mother was hospitalised having being diagnosed with the H1N1 virus.
It has now been confirmed that the same virus caused the death of four people in the country over the course of the winter.
This news has prompted doctors to promote the benefits of the flu vaccine to the general public.
Dr Darina O' Flanagan, head of the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), said the current flu vaccine offered protection against the virus.
This is in contrast to the winter of 2009, when swine flu reached pandemic levels because there was initially no vaccine against it.
Dr O'Flanagan said overall flu levels, including the B strain, were continuing to rise and likely to persist for four to five more weeks.
"If someone got vaccinated now it would take effect in 10 to 14 days," she said.
The World Health Organisation have also urged the use of the vaccine, having graded the H1N1 strain as a virus that can be tackled by the seasonal flu vaccine.
So far this winter seven deaths have been linked to flu.
Pregnant women, those aged over 65 and those with immune difficulties are particularly susceptible to this strain of the virus, while medical professionals advise that most people do not require inpatient care for the virus.
The disease watchdog said that 219 patients have been hospitalised with flu so far this winter and 88 of these had swine flu. Eleven patients have ended up in critical care.
The HSE provides the flu vaccine free of charge for those in the at-risk groups. Symptoms of swine flu include a sudden fever, a temperature of 38C or above, tiredness, aching muscles, joint pain and headache.