Flu cases in the UK have increased earlier this winter than usual, perhaps by over a month.
Other unpleasant respiratory infections such as RSV are also on the rise.
Information from around the world can help us predict what might type of flu season might be heading our way.
- Australia has just come to the end of a bad flu season, with a dramatic increase in flu cases and hospitalisations relative to the mild season it experienced last year, in a pattern likely to be replicated in the UK.
- In the USA, by the end of November 2022 there had already been more than 6.2 million flu cases, with 53,000 hospitalisations, and 2,900 deaths from flu.
- Across Europe as a whole, the flu season has commenced earlier than in the 4 previous seasons, and the proportion of positive tests from sentinel locations has exceeded the technical threshold for consideration as an epidemic.
Meanwhile, UK vaccination rates have so far been low: by the end of November, when the flu vaccination campaign should be largely complete, fewer than 40% of “at risk” adults under 65 had been vaccinated, fewer than 25% of healthy adults aged 50 to 64, and fewer than 30% of pregnant women.
So this winter’s flu season is likely to be more severe, and not enough people will be protected.
What can you do to keep well this winter?
Get Vaccinated . Get Tested . Get Treatment
The good news is that circulating flu strains have so far been a good match with this year’s flu vaccines. It is not too late to be vaccinated. Vaccines are still available. At this point in the season, our preferred vaccine for adults is our premium recombinant vaccine, Supemtek, which is known to be highly immunogenic.
Flu cases in children are rising but the nasal spray vaccine has so far been in restricted supply. If your child has not yet been able to obtain the flu spray, injected flu vaccines are at least as effective and should be given without further delay.
At the Fleet Street Clinic, we can test quickly and accurately for a full panel of respiratory viruses in our own laboratory. It is helpful to know whether you are suffering from flu, covid, or another circulating virus such as RSV or metapneumovirus. We can tailor treatment to the result, help you know how long symptoms will last, and can help you prevent spreading it to others – especially important over the Christmas period when socialising in high at work and amongst family and friends.
Flu is treatable with anti-viral drugs, which reduce symptoms and speed recovery. Preventive treatment for close contacts and other members of your family is also something we can help with, available from our GPs. Knowing for certain that you have a viral infection can also help avoid unnecessary antibiotic treatment.
We can also provide onsite Workplace Flu Vaccinations for companies in the UK – for more information.
If you have a heart condition you have a greater risk of becoming more seriously ill from flu (seasonal influenza) than the general population. In addition, having the flu can exacerbate pre-existing conditions like diabetes or asthma.
According to the NHS, “every year over 11,000 people in England die from complications caused by the flu virus. Many of these deaths could have been prevented by having the flu vaccination.”
Preventing the flu in the first place is the best option.
The best protection is to have a Flu Vaccine each winter.
What is the flu?
Many people think having influenza, also known as the flu, is like having a bad cold, but in reality flu is a nasty respiratory virus that can make you very unwell. Influenza causes inflammation in the body and can be very serious – sometimes leading to hospitalisation or even death.
There is evidence that heart attacks happen more often during or immediately after an acute inflammatory illness, such as flu.
A flu jab is the best protection against flu.
In general, the flu causes stress and inflammation on the body, increasing blood pressure, heart rate and heart function. This is not good for someone with heart or circulatory problems.
Flu vaccination is strongly recommended for anyone who has ever had a heart attack, stroke or has underlying heart disease. A previous diagnosis of heart or circulatory diseases is considered a high risk factor for complications or even another heart attack, for anyone who becomes ill with flu.
Does flu affect heart medication?
If you take warfarin, flu symptoms can affect your blood clotting rate (INR). You should speak to your doctor if this happens so they can monitor your situation closely. It does also mean if you do become unwell, it may take you longer to recover than the average person.
In addition, some over-the-counter flu medicines can’t be used when taking medicines for heart conditions, so contact your doctor before taking things like painkillers and cough medicines. It is better to check before beginning any new medications.
When is the best time to get the flu jab?
Flu vaccinations become available from mid to late September, and through the season until February. It’s best to get your flu vaccine in September or October. The peak time for catching flu runs from Christmas to Easter. The aim is to be vaccinated before flu transmission starts, and to allow at least a couple of weeks post-vaccination, for maximum immunity to develop. The sooner you have the vaccination, the sooner you will be protected.
We have specialist flu vaccinations available, such as an egg-free alternative, FluAd (for those aged 65 year and older), kids nasal spray or the premium recombinant flu jab. You can book these online too.
It is important to have a flu jab every year because the flu virus can change. There are many strains of flu already and some are more dominant than others. Each year strains are analysed to determine which strains are likely to be the prevalent strains circulating that year. They can vary year to year so relying on a past vaccination for protection is risky. The previous year’s vaccine may not offer you the right protection against the strains in circulation this year.
In addition, immunity to flu decreases over time. Exposure to the flu virus strengthens the immune response and offers natural protection. With less flu circulating over the past few years due to covid restriction measures, natural immunity in the general population will have decreased.
A flu vaccine will boost immunity.
In comparison to the previous year many workers have now returned to the office, social distancing restrictions have eased and in general there are less protective measures set in place. This means that there is a greater chance of the flu spreading and more people falling ill this winter. Although there has been a massive easing of covid restrictions this year that doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over. With both illnesses circulating around it is highly recommended to reduce the risk by getting the flu jab.
Protect yourself against the flu.
You can find more information on the types of flu vaccines available.
Wanting to book a Workplace Flu Vaccination Programme?
Flujabs.org is part of Fleet Street Clinic and has been providing workplace flu vaccinations to UK businesses for many years.
Request a quote – Fill out the online form and one of our flu coordinators will get back to you with current availability and costs.
Some infections can harm your baby if you catch them during pregnancy. Research suggests that the flu, in particular strains such as H1N1 (swine flu), can significantly increase the risk of complications to expecting mothers and their unborn babies.
Vaccinating expecting mothers against flu or before pregnancy can provide the newborn baby with significant ‘passive’ protection – which can last several weeks after birth. This is important because babies cannot be vaccinated themselves until they are 6 months old. So, a mother’s vaccination is strongly advised.
Fleet Street Clinic are urging all the mums-to-be to have the vaccine. The Quadrivalent Flu Jab can be safely given at any point during pregnancy.
Pregnant women are less able to fight off infections and therefore more likely to be seriously ill if they contract the flu virus. Pregnant women are at risk of complications from the flu at any stage of pregnancy. So therefore, it is important for those expecting to get their flu jab as early as possible.
If you are currently planning your pregnancy, it would be sensible to consider getting your flu jab prior to becoming pregnant.
The flu vaccine can safely be given to pregnant women at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine. You can have the whooping cough vaccine from 16 weeks onwards.
The vaccine is inactivated, and cannot cause flu itself.
Having the flu vaccine is the best protection.
If you are interested in booking flu vaccinations for your staff, visit flujabs.org for more information and to get a quote.
FLU SEASON 2017
Following particularly bad flu seasons in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia, the NHS has been told to prepare for a severe winter flu epidemic, the BBC reported today.
The Chief Executive of the NHS Simon Stevens said,
“The signs from Australia and New Zealand, who are just coming out of their winter, are that it has been a heavy flu season and many of the hospitals down there have struggled to cope.”
Research indicates that health services in Australia and New Zealand are recording double the amount of cases of flu this winter, compared to the average of the previous 5 years.
Every year, a few different strains of flu circulate and one normally becomes dominant. In Australia and New Zealand, the H3N2 strain has been the main problem. The good news is, that if the UK flu season follows the same pattern, the vaccine produced for Winter Flu 2017/ 18 is effective against this strain.
Source: The BBC
Fleet Street Clinic offers a flu vaccination service for businesses and individuals between September 2017 and February 2018. Adults and children are welcome at our Fleet Street Flu Jabs drop-clinic. Flu Jabs are offered on a walk-in basis (to attend at a specific time, please book an appointment with a doctor or nurse, a separate appointment fee applies).
WHEN IS THE DROP-IN FLU CLINIC OPEN?
Our service runs Monday through Friday 9am – 5pm. (PLEASE NOTE: these hours are shorter than those offered for other services at Fleet Street Clinic). Book your appointment today.
If you have any further questions about the flu jab or other travel vaccinations, our experienced team of nurses can help.