The HSE is reminding people that ‘if you can't get the flu, you can't spread it'.
It has just launched its annual flu vaccine campaign and is calling on all those in at-risk groups to get themselves vaccinated.
Figures show that flu vaccine uptake rates among one of the at-risk groups - healthcare workers - were at their highest ever levels last year.
"The increase in uptake in healthcare workers is very welcome, but we need to make sure that this positive development continues and that every healthcare worker considers getting vaccinated this year. Flu vaccine uptake in Ireland among healthcare workers now compares favourably with other countries in Europe where traditionally uptake has been low," according to interim head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, Dr Sean Denyer.
Uptake rates among healthcare workers in the acute hospital sector reached almost 45% last year, compared to 34% during the previous flu season.
"More than three out of five of our hospitals now exceed the 40% national uptake target. By getting the vaccine, staff are protecting themselves, their families, their colleagues, friends and the people they look after in the health service," Dr Denyer pointed out.
He noted that in the 2017/2018 flu season, the number of confirmed flu outbreaks, hospitalised cases, ICU cases and flu-related deaths exceeded all previous records in Ireland.
"The impact was particularly severe for those aged 65 years and older, with 2,218 confirmed influenza hospitalised cases and 85 ICU admissions in this age group. Some 222 deaths were reported, with an average age of 81 years," Dr Denyer explained.
The flu vaccine is recommended for all those working in healthcare settings and is available free of charge from local occupational health departments.
Meanwhile, this year's campaign, #YourBestShot, is also reminding people in other at-risk groups to get themselves vaccinated. These include:
-People over the age of 65
-Adults and children with long-term medical conditions such as heart disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis and moderate/severe asthma
-Residents in nursing homes and other long-stay facilities.
The vaccine is free of charge to everyone in these groups, although those without a medical card may be charged an administration fee by their GP or pharmacist.
Flu is a highly contagious illness that kills between 200 and 500 people in Ireland every year. Flu season usually lasts from October to April. Symptoms usually come on quickly and can include a fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. For more information, click here