Strict visiting restrictions remain in place at Cork University Hospital (CUH) due to an outbreak of influenza, with no end date currently set for their easing.
The restrictions, first applied on December 21, see visiting closed to all inpatient wards at the hospital, with the exception of children visits or those who are critically ill. Parents or guardians only are permitted to access the hospital’s paediatric unit.
A spokesperson for the hospital called on members of the public to only attend “if it is absolutely necessary”, and not to visit if they have experienced flu-like symptoms in the previous four days, or have been in contact with anyone with such symptoms.
There is no update at present as to when the restrictions may be lifted, they added.
Flu season in Ireland arrived four weeks early this year according to a HSE winter briefing last week, which has seen attendance at emergency departments and, as a matter of consequence, the number of patients on trolleys skyrocket.
Roughly 50% of those people currently presenting at emergency departments have done so as a result of the flu, with around a quarter of that number requiring hospitalisation and isolation.
Overall the number of people on trolleys in emergency departments over the past week was up 641 versus the same week in 2018, an increase of 118%, with Minister for Health Simon Harris acknowledging that there is “no doubt that this is going to put significant pressure on our health service”.
Some 18 people have died from the flu virus to date this year, with the final total expected to pass 100 by the end of the viral season, a figure broadly in line with previous years.
CUH urged relatives and friends of inpatients to make contact by phone, if possible, rather than in person over the coming days.
“The public can be assured that the hospital’s infection control team is very active in monitoring the situation and all patients are being managed appropriately,” a hospital spokesperson said.
They asked that those experiencing flu-symptoms contact their local general practitioner or primary care centre before attending at the hospital’s emergency department.
Exceptions to the visiting restrictions, meanwhile, would be facilitated if necessary on an individual care basis, they said.
The hospital added further that it is not too late to get this year’s flu vaccine, which is currently available free of charge to at-risk groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, or those with serious illness.