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Is COVID-19 just another flu?

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With the first case of COVID-19 now confirmed in Ireland, many people are wondering if it's all just a case of much ado about nothing. Surely it can't be as serious as the media are portraying it to be,... or can it?

To answer this question, we need to take a look at the numbers we know so far about COVID-19 to see how it compares to seasonal influenza.

Free GP Care Cheaper Than Previously Thought

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Former Health Minister Leo Varadkar said free GP care would overwhelm the system, but new figures from ESRI suggest otherwise.

According to the Economic and Social Research Institute the number of doctor visits in a free system would rise by 3.5%, or 700,000 trips annually.

They explain this by the fact that non-medical card patients tend to be healthier and that the time required to see a GP would deter excessive use of the system.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Majority in Favour of Universal Healthcare

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The 2011 Pfizer Health Index report, which was launched on the 24th October 2011, revealed that 1 in 5 Irish adults would place free universal access to healthcare, as one of their top three healthcare priorities, with 2 out of 3 being broadly in favour even if it would increase income tax rates by an average of 1%.

IMB Target Online Sale of Counterfeit and Illegal Medicines

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The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) in association with Revenue's Customs Service and An Garda Síochána took part in the INTERPOL co-ordinated operation Pangea IV in a fight against the online sale of counterfeit and illegal medicines.

Authorities from more than 80 countries were involved in this week-long initiative focusing on websites that supply illegal and dangerous medicines. The initiative which took place from 20 to 27 September 2011, is the largest internet–based action of its kind in support of the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT).

Substances detained in Ireland included products for weight loss, erectile dysfunction as well as mood stabilisers. A total of 492 packages containing 51,621 tablets, capsules and creams with an estimated value in excess of €150,000 were intercepted by Customs officers.

IPU Reports That 1000 Pharmacists Have Signed Up to Vaccination Training

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The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) reports that over 1000 pharmacists have signed up to vaccination training in preparation for the 2011/12 flu season. If everything goes to plan, flu vaccinations will become available in most pharmacies very shortly.

Boots have confirmed that they will be launching their flu vaccination service on the 5th of October 2011, with most other pharmacies expected to follow suit.

UPDATE: Due to the delay in passing the necessary legislation the start of flu vaccination service has been pushed back by approximately two weeks.
NEW UPDATE: The legislation has been passed and we finally have a date. Flu vaccinations in Irish pharmacies will commence this coming Monday, 17th October 2011. Get those phones out and start booking your appointments.

RTE Reports on the Possible Link Between the Pandemrix Vaccine and Narcolepsy in Ireland

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Last night RTE aired their report into the possible link between the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine Pandemrix and narcolepsy, a debilitating sleep disorder.

Patients who suffer from narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness and difficulty staying awake. Another common feature of the disease is cataplexy, a sudden muscular weakness often brought on by strong emotions, and vivid hallucinations, sometimes even after waking.

The HSE has so far received reports of 29 new narcolepsy incidents in children and adolescents, that may be linked to the Pandemrix vaccine.

HSE to End Free Psychiatric Medication in Greater Dublin Area

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In a fundamental change of policy, the HSE will soon end the free psychiatric medication service, which has been provided to patients in the greater Dublin area for many years. The first change to the Psychiatric Scheme was introduced back in October 2010 and required medical card holders to have their prescriptions transcribed onto a medical card prescription by their GP, before they could collect them from their pharmacy.

Availability of Iodine Tablets in Ireland

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Due to the on-going nuclear crisis in Japan, we have seen an increasing number of requests for iodine tablets in Irish pharmacies. None of the potassium iodide tablets are licenced for use in Ireland and are therefore not readily available, either over the counter or on prescription.

If you wish to purchase Iodine tablets (i.e. Jodetten) you will first need to see your GP, who will issue you with a prescription. You should then take the prescription to your local pharmacy, where they will order the tablets for you.

Due to the unlicensed nature of these tablets, it is unlikely that the pharmacy will have them in stock and it could take anything between 7 and 9 business days for them to come in. You should expect to pay around €17 for a packet of 100.