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Home News centre National Press Releases 2010 Press Releases ›  Weekly national influenza report, 31 December 2010

Weekly national influenza report, 31 December 2010

31 December 2010

Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) indicate that levels of seasonal flu are continuing to increase across the UK.


The two main strains of flu circulating are Influenza A H1N1 (2009) 'swine' flu and Influenza B, with H1N1 being the predominant strain. A small proportion of flu cases are resulting in severe disease, particularly in people under the age of 65. This is due to the fact that H1N1 is more likely to infect young people and, unfortunately, a very small number of these may develop severe disease.

In the past week, the HPA has been notified of a further 12 people who have died with confirmed flu, bringing the total number since the flu season began in October this year to 39. 36 of these people died with the H1N1 (2009) strain and 3 with Influenza B. All except one case were under 65 years of age and four were under the age of five.  

Where information is available on the fatal cases, 23 out of 38 (61 per cent) of those who have died were in a clinical 'at risk' group for vaccination. Where vaccination status is known for this season's trivalent vaccine, only two people out of 33 had received their jab.  Last year's pandemic vaccine was only received by one person out of 30, where information is available.

Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: "We are seeing a large amount of flu circulating across the country and would urge those people in an at-risk group to have their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible as this is the best way to protect themselves from flu this winter. 

"Although there were reports of many people during the pandemic only experiencing mild disease we can't stress enough that 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.

"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.

Professor Watson continued: "It is important that people do all they can to reduce the spread of the virus and they can do this by maintaining good cough and hand hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and cleaning your hands as soon you can. These are all important actions that can help prevent the spread of germs and reduce the risk of flu transmission."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. Throughout the flu season the HPA publishes weekly figures on flu and flu-like illness on a Thursday afternoon via its weekly flu report. To view the latest report, visit http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/SeasonalInfluenza/EpidemiologicalData/03influsweeklyreportpdfonly/
  2. The Department of Health now publishes its Winterwatch report which reports on how well the NHS is coping with winter pressures and has practical advice: visit http://winterwatch.dh.gov.uk/ 
  3. The flu H1N1 (2009) virus, formerly known as 'swine flu', is now one of the group of seasonal flu viruses circulating around the world. Following a pandemic, it is often the case that the pandemic strain becomes the most common seasonal strain of influenza the next flu season, so it in not surprising to see H1N1 (2009) circulating this winter.  
  4. This year's seasonal flu vaccine includes a H1N1 2009 component so that people who are vulnerable are protected against all the circulating strains. For the first time the seasonal vaccine is being offered to pregnant women as they were disproportionally affected by the H1N1 (2009) strain during the pandemic and are more at risk of serious complications. 
  5. The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for those aged 65 or over and those with the following conditions, regardless of age:  chronic respiratory disease, heart disease, renal disease and chronic liver disease, diabetes requiring insulin or oral hypoglycaemic drugs, immunosuppression. Vaccination is also recommended for pregnant women, those living in long-stay residential care homes, health care workers and carers. 
  6. Symptoms of seasonal flu include sudden onset of fever, cough as well as sore throat, aching muscles and joints. 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. 
  7. Antivirals are drugs given to high risk patients who become ill with seasonal influenza. They are most effective if taken within 48 hours of onset and may help limit the impact of some symptoms and reduce the potential for serious complications. They are also used in some situations where it is important to help prevent people from getting influenza.  
  8. If you are suffering from flu you can use NHS Direct colds and flu symptom checker available at www.nhs.uk/nhsdirect or call 0845 4647. For further information on flu go to: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/SeasonalInfluenza/
  9. For media enquiries please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on
    020 8327 7098/6647/6690,
    out of hours 020 8200 4400
    or email cfipressoffice@hpa.org.uk

Last reviewed: 31 December 2010