Viruses Treatment Articles

High Flu Incidence And Low Vaccine Uptake In UK

September 14, 2017

The United Kingdom is experiencing a sudden, worrying rise in cases of flu, while percentage of people vaccinated is one of the lowest in Western Europe, authorities and local media report. According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the increase in levels of seasonal flu are starting to gather pace across the country - both hospital and community data show an upward trend in incidence rates.

"At risk" groups continue to be vaccinated at very low numbers, the HPA adds. 43% of 'at risk' people under the age of 65 years have been vaccinated so far, while 68.5% of everyone over 65 has received the jab.

A H1N1 (2009) swine flu and Influenza B are the main viruses circulating in the UK at the moment, with H1N1 being the main one.

In a small number of cases patients are experiencing flu complications, especially those under 65. Experts say this is because the H1N1 virus affects younger people in greater numbers.

Over the last seven days 10 more patients have died with confirmed influenza, the HPA reports. 27 people have died of flu so far this season, of which 24 had the swine flu (H1N1 2009) strain. Eighteen fatalities were among adults; nine were children.

Thirteen of those who died were in a "clinical at risk group" for vaccination. Only one of the 27 people who died had been vaccinated this season.

The HPA has been informed that 19 patients are receiving Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) treatment in UK hospitals.

Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: "The level of flu activity we are currently seeing is at levels often seen during the winter flu seasons, but due to the fact that H1N1 is one of the predominant strains circulating at the moment, we are seeing more severe illness in people under the age of 65 than we would normally expect.

Flu can be an extremely serious illness for people in 'at risk' groups, including pregnant women, the elderly and those with other underlying conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, lung, liver or renal diseases and those who have weakened immune systems.

Flu vaccination offers the best protection from seasonal flu and we continue to urge those in risk groups, including pregnant women at any stage of their pregnancy and healthcare workers, to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The vaccine is safe and effective.

Most people with flu can 'self care' by taking plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids and taking over the counter pain relievers such as paracetamol. But anyone displaying severe symptoms, particularly those in vulnerable groups should contact their GP or local out-of-hours service for medical advice.

The Department of Health has recently confirmed guidance on the use of antiviral drugs for the management of people who are displaying flu symptoms, this includes previously healthy people as well as those in 'at risk' groups. It's hoped wider access to antiviral treatments will help reduce the number of severe cases we are seeing." In the UK the flu vaccine is recommended for: People aged 65 years or more Those with chronic respiratory diseases Carers (USA: caregivers) Health care workers Individuals in long-stay residential care homes Individuals with renal disease Patients with heart disease Patients with liver disease People taking immunosuppressive medications Pregnant women Those with diabetes requiring insulin or oral hypoglycemic drugs Professor Watson continued: "While it is impossible to predict with any certainty the extent to which flu will affect the community each year, recent research conducted by the HPA has suggested that a very substantial wave of activity associated with the pandemic strain is not likely. Nevertheless, activity with H1N1 this winter was expected, particularly in younger age groups, and this, combined with influenza B activity and other winter respiratory viruses has caused a high level of illness at the moment." The signs and symptoms of seasonal flu include aching muscles, aching joints, sore throat, cough, fever (sudden onset), and extreme tiredness (fatigue). Antiviral medications are usually administered to high risk patients who become infected. Antivirals need to be taken within 48 hours of onset for them to be effective. In very rare occasions, antivirals may be used to prevent people from becoming infected.

Good cough and hand hygiene is important to stop the spread of flu. When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue (paper handkerchief), and dispose of it immediately and then wash your hands with warm water and soap. If you have no tissue or handkerchief cough into the inside of your elbow, not your hands - contaminated hands are more likely to touch other things and people than the inside of your elbow.

Source: HPA