GPs are now treating patients with illnesses more commonly seen in winter as the public slowly adjusts to normal levels of socializing, a top Cork GP has said.
Covid-19 lead with the Irish College of General Practitioners, Dr Nuala O’ Connor, said more infections are being passed around as people return to the workplace.
“We’ve been seeing quite a lot of people with symptoms of infections. It’s almost like certain things got delayed,” she said. “We are still seeing croup, we are seeing chickenpox, we’re seeing hand, foot, and mouth disease. We are seeing stuff that we’d normally see March to April coming right into June.”
The resumption of travel, domestically and internationally, is another reason more infections are circulating, and she said: “People are mixing more and when people mix that’s how infections get passed.”
And she is concerned that negative antigen test results are causing people to ignore their symptoms. “Just because you have a negative antigen test, it doesn’t mean you can go out and about,” she said.
“You still have symptoms of an infection, it might or might not be Covid but it’s another viral infection and you could pass that on to a vulnerable person.”
Ireland has had 2,224 reported cases of flu this year, compared with none in the same period last year, Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) figures show.
Cases of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) have shot up to 409 so far this year, compared to eight in the same time last year. This is a virus that commonly affects children. So far, 27 people have been hospitalised with chickenpox, up from seven in the first 23 weeks of last year.
Noroviral infections or the vomiting bug have been recorded 385 times this year – compared to 34 in the same period last year.
“We are seeing other viruses that go around,” she said. “We are seeing croup, most of the time croup is RSV. People need to remember the basics. The culture change we need moving forward is that if you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, you should stay at home until you’ve recovered.”
The rise in these infections coincides with an upsurge in Covid-19 cases with the number of people hospitalised with Covid reaching 496, the highest since the end of April. The number of people in intensive care is 25 nationally.
“We noticed more cases first about three weeks ago,” she said, saying that patients with positive results through antigen tests were calling for advice in larger numbers. Dr O’Connor said in her experience infections are “relatively mild” for most people but she urged vaccination as one way to stop this wave.
“The thing is we still have the same groups in society who remain vulnerable, people who are elderly, people whose immune system remains very weak,” she said. “That is why we need everybody to be mindful because we don’t know who is immunocompromised.”
She advised the public to consult the HSE website to find out if they are due a booster and not to wait until the winter booster roll-out.
Meanwhile, Australians have been warned to expect up to 15,000 Covid deaths this year.
Professor Margaret Hellard told a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria: “This kind of notion going around … that there’s nothing that we’ve got to add or to offer, and that really things can’t be done, is actually incorrect. The current level of vaccination is not high enough.”