The death toll from flu this winter has risen to 44, with people over 65 the worst hit by the virus.

Flu is still widespread and circulating at a high level, but rates have fallen - although it is posing a greater threat to older people who are more likely to end up in intensive care.

The Irish Independent is reporting that two of the deaths involved children and six were in the 35-64 year age group.

Last week, 609 patients were hospitalised with flu and the highest outbreaks, where the virus was passed on from one person to another, were seen in nursing homes and hospitals.

There were 25 outbreaks of flu in hospitals as the effect of overcrowding increased the risk of the infection being picked up by patients having to be placed too near one another.

The areas of the country which have experienced the fewest number of cases are the south-east, west and north west.

It comes as the hospital trolley crisis has eased, although 530 patients were waiting for a bed across the country yesterday, causing more congestion and long delays.

The HSE said there were fewer over-75's attending.

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