Here comes the flu.

December 17, 2017 5:26 pm

Is the flu season on the cusp of beginning and have you had your Flu vaccine?

by Alex Mann, hVIVO and Dr Rob Lambkin-Williams, hVIVO

Newsweek magazine reported this week  that in the USA flu may be on its way to the northern hemisphere, it is now widespread in New York and California.

In the US, the H3N2 strain is most prevalent, which is always a cause for concern as it causes the most severe disease, morbidity and mortality. The CDC has reported a single rare H3N2 virus isolated from a farm worker, but there has been no suggestion that that virus can spread from human to human.

The World Health Organisation has been tweeting regularly regarding flu, emphasising the importance of vaccination, and pointing out that the most deaths due to respiratory disease in the over 75 year olds are caused by flu. You can find their twitter feed here.

In the UK a review of the Weekly National Flu Report and Syndromic surveillance (calls to 111, and visits to GP and Emergency Room) report released Thursday 14th December suggests that we are at the flu season threshold.

Alongside this week’s cold weather spell, is this a sign that the flu season is about to begin? Perhaps so. Hopefully the uptake of vaccination in children and adults will help reduce the impact of this flu season. Vaccination of children is especially important as they often can pass on the virus to susceptible adults, for example their grandparents.

Healthcare professionals are particularly concerned given the impact of influenza in Australia during their recent winter, which was described by many as there worse ever. In the UK, GPs have been warned to prepare for a tough winter...

The good news is not all viral respiratory infections are of course caused by flu and infections from the common cold virus,  HRV,  continue to decline, and bronchitis/bronchiolitis in children under 5 is on the way down too. Hopefully this will stay that way for the upcoming holidays as all the families get together and the risk of viruses spreading is increased.

To summarise the data;

From the Weekly National Flu Report summary:

  • During week 49 (ending 10 December 2017), influenza activity is starting to increase for several indicators in particular the number of lab confirmed outbreaks, the proportion of laboratory samples positive for influenza in primary and secondary care and influenza admissions to hospital and intensive care. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is at peak activity.

Syndromic Surveillance Summary:

  • During week 49 there were further decreases in emergency department attendances and GP out of hours consultations for bronchitis/bronchiolitis, and NHS 111 calls for cough and difficulty breathing.

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