The number of new swine flu cases in Ireland almost doubled this week, bringing the overall influenza rate to the highest level seen since influenza surveillance began in 2000.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has also reported two more deaths, one from human swine flu and one from influenza B.

One death was a young patient, and another a person aged over 65. Both had underlying medical conditions.

It brings to 28 the number of deaths from human swine flu here.

In the past week, doctors have diagnosed over 9,180 new cases. Human swine flu now accounts for around 80% of all confirmed influenza cases.

The levels have surpassed the peak seen during the swine flu pandemic here in late 2009 - there are now 204 cases for every 100,000 people.

The number of people in hospital and in intensive care units has also increased.

So far this season, 393 patients have been hospitalised and 72 have been admitted to intensive care.

The Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health & Children, Dr Tony Holohan, has said that hospitals can cope with increased levels of human swine flu.

He said escalation policies were in place and more beds could be commissioned if necessary.

He said the increase in cases was expected to continue for another week or two.

Of the 42 patients still in intensive care, 37 are adults and five are children.

Extra swine flu vaccines are also being sent to GPs.

Three deaths in Northern Ireland

Meanwhile, there have been three more swine flu related deaths in Northern Ireland.

New figures released by the Public Health Agency show that the number of swine flu related deaths across Northern Ireland since the beginning of November currently stands at 17.

Of those who died, 14 had underlying health conditions.

Two of the 17 were adults who had no underlying health issue.

Flu rates remain highest in the 15-44 year group.

At a briefing by the North's Public Health Agency, Dr Carolyn Harper said the latest figures suggest the current flu season is peaking.

The briefing also heard that 30 adults and three children suffering from swine flu are being treated as critical care patients.