With one other flu season virtually upon us our Medical Director Professor Paul Cosford has answered some key questions on flu and flu vaccination.
Influenza, or flu, is a viral an infection that primarily impacts the respiratory system. It’s often characterised by fever, chills, headache, aching muscle groups, joint ache and fatigue.
When ought to I get vaccinated?
We encourage those that are eligible to promptly get their flu vaccine when they’re referred to as for immunisation, so they’re protected for the height of the season which is often round January and February, though this may change yearly. The flu season can final till Could relying on which pressure is circulating and how briskly it spreads, however exercise often dies down between March and April.
Why is flu an issue?
Flu is contagious which means it might probably simply be unfold to others. Some folks with flu shouldn’t have any signs nevertheless they might nonetheless have the ability to move the virus to others .
In most individuals, flu is a self-limiting sickness, nevertheless for some folks, notably these in what we name ‘at-risk’ teams, flu can ends in a severe an infection.
Who’s most in danger from flu?
There are specific teams who’re at increased threat from flu; these embody pregnant ladies, these over the age of 65 and people with severe well being situations. We provide the flu vaccine to folks in all of those teams, in addition to some youngsters, to assist shield them from catching and spreading flu. Eligible folks can have their flu vaccine at their GP surgical procedure or a neighborhood pharmacy providing the service. Some midwifery companies can provide the vaccine to pregnant ladies every winter.
This yr we’re introducing a more practical flu vaccine for these aged 65 and over in addition to providing all eligible adults beneath 65 the ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine, which protects in opposition to a complete of 4 strains of flu.
What’s new for the 2018/19 flu season?
The newly obtainable ‘adjuvanted’ vaccine for these aged 65 and over is predicted to considerably increase effectiveness by enhancing the physique’s immune response to the vaccine. That is essential as a result of usually, older adults’ our bodies don’t reply as effectively to the flu vaccine as a result of their naturally weaker immune techniques. Older adults are additionally extra more likely to endure problems from flu.
This enhanced vaccine has the potential to result in:
- 30,000 fewer GP appointments
- 2,000 fewer folks needing hospital care
- 700 fewer deaths from flu in England
The broader flu vaccination programme can even be improved by providing all eligible adults beneath 65, together with pregnant ladies, well being care staff and people with severe well being situations, the ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine in injected type. This protects in opposition to a complete of 4 strains of flu; two strains of flu A and two strains of flu B.
We can even prolong the nasal spray vaccine to major college youngsters in yr 5 (650,000 further youngsters), which means the vaccine might be supplied in colleges to youngsters in reception and in years 1, 2, 3, four and 5 and to 2 and three yr olds via basic observe. The programme will ultimately roll out to all major college youngsters. Attributable to having usually poorer hand and respiratory hygiene than adults, youngsters are inclined to unfold flu extra simply, so defending them can be essential for shielding the remainder of the inhabitants.
Nationwide scientific leaders have despatched a letter to all chief executives of NHS trusts highlighting the significance of frontline healthcare staff defending their sufferers, colleagues and households by getting vaccinated in opposition to flu. NHS England has additionally supplied the vaccine to social care staff freed from cost once more this yr which are usually in shut contact with among the most weak teams.
How can I shield myself, my household and people round me from the flu?
Flu could be very infectious and the virus can reside on fingers and arduous surfaces for as much as 24 hours. Because of this it is very important “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it” – “Catch” any sneezes in a tissue, “Bin” any tissues instantly and “Kill” the virus by washing your fingers with cleaning soap and heat water. Keep away from contact with sick folks and wash your fingers usually with cleaning soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub. If you’re unwell, take care of your self, drink loads of fluids and keep at dwelling so that you don’t unfold flu to others.
The vaccine stays the very best defence we now have to guard in opposition to the unfold of flu and we encourage everybody eligible to get it every year.
What kinds of vaccine ought to I get?
Adults beneath 65 in in danger teams and pregnant ladies might be supplied the quadrivalent vaccine this yr which protects in opposition to 4 strains of flu.
These aged 65 and over might be supplied the newly launched enhanced ‘adjuvanted’ model of the trivalent vaccine, which boosts their immune response.
Youngsters receiving the flu vaccine as a part of the childhood flu vaccination programme will obtain a quadrivalent vaccine as a nasal spray – or by injection if they aren’t eligible to obtain the spray.
Will the vaccine work?
How effectively the vaccine will work varies yr on yr as we are able to by no means totally predict how flu will have an effect on the inhabitants. Total, our data discovered that the vaccine was not as efficient final yr as we often see, notably for these aged 65 and over. Because of this we’re bringing within the enhanced vaccine for this group this season. As well as, we’re providing the quadrivalent vaccine to all beneath 65s in in danger teams which is able to shield in opposition to four strains of flu.
How are flu vaccine strains determined?
The World Well being Group (WHO) displays influenza globally and every year convenes a vaccine composition group that recommends the strains of flu virus that ought to be included within the flu vaccine for the subsequent flu season based mostly on a evaluate of information from world wide. It then takes 6-Eight months for the vaccine producers to supply ample portions of the flu vaccine for the annual marketing campaign.
Flu is unpredictable. If a change within the virus is detected as soon as manufacturing has began there isn’t time to alter it forward of the flu marketing campaign.
What have been the uptake charges for 2017/18?
Final yr we noticed improved uptake charges in all classes:
- 6% in these aged 65 and over
- 9% for these aged 6 months to beneath 65 years of age with a number of underlying well being drawback
- 2% in pregnant ladies
- 7% in healthcare staff
- 5% at school aged youngsters
- 8% and 44.2% in youngsters aged 2 and three respectively.
There’s clearly nonetheless room for enchancment inside the vaccination programme and we urge everybody who’s eligible or accountable for an eligible particular person to consider defending their well being with the vaccine this winter.
Ought to all healthcare staff be vaccinated?
Except contraindicated, healthcare professionals have a duty to be vaccinated to guard their sufferers from flu. Their NHS employers have a duty to make it simple for employees to get the vaccine.