The Japanese flu currently in circulation is not covered by Irish vaccines
Ireland hasn't seen many flu seasons quite like this one.
This current flu season has seen an unusual occurrence of two different strains of the virus circulating nationwide, which is something that has only happened three times in the past 20 years.
This time of year will typically see a number of people contracting an A virus, such as the 'Aussie Flu' (H3N2). What is unique about the current season is the fact that a B virus is also doing the rounds.
Known as the Yamagata flu, AKA the Japanese flu, the major issue posed by this virus is that it's not contained in the current influenza vaccine, which is used to fight two A influenza's and a different B influenza.
While both the Aussie and Japanese flu affect all groups, the Aussie flu affects people mostly over the age of 65, while the Japanese flu can also affect children.
So, while it is less severe, the fact that it affects children means that it is easier to contract, since they are typically seen as one of the major spreaders.
The Japanese flu is far more contagious, but the period of illness is the same as that of the Aussie flu, lasting for an average of around four days before symptoms appear and then five days of feeling sick.
Anybody in the risk groups for flu should expect the same symptoms, since both strains can result in serious diseases or complications, such as pneumonia, which can take place as a result of both viruses.
According to the HSE's weekly surveillance report, the week ending on 7 January saw the highest rate of people contracting either one of the flu viruses this year, with the majority of cases being among people aged between 15 - 64, followed by people above the age of 65.
This "significant increase" saw the consultant rate for influenza-like illnesses go from 29.9 per 100,000 of the population at the end of December to 98.2 per 100,000 in the first week of January.
The report has also stated that influenza-like illnesses have soared above the Irish baseline threshold of 17.5 per 100,000 of the population for four weeks now. GP Out-of-Hours and respiratory admissions were also found to have risen significantly during week one of January.
During this week, 47% of hospitalised patients with confirmed influenza tested positive for the Aussie flu, while 53% carried the Japanese flu. Out of these 367 hospitalisations, 28 were admitted to critical care units, with the total fatality rate being less than 10.
Levels of Flu will remain high for at least 6 weeks - vaccine = best protection & “cross-cover” against flu complications & hospitalization
— Paul Connors (@paulconnors27) January 12, 2018