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Seasonal influenza fact sheet
(Correct for 2010/11 flu season)

  • Last modified date:
    25 January 2011

Key statistics on flu can be found at the sites below and are updated weekly during the flu season.

Department of Health Winterwatch data - http://winterwatch.dh.gov.uk/

Health Protection Agency flu reports - http://www.hpa.org.uk/  (see flu section)

Frequently asked questions are below.

What is swine flu?

Swine flu is the common name given to a relatively new strain of influenza (flu) that caused a flu pandemic in 2009-2010.
It is also referred to as H1N1 swine influenza (because it is an H1N1 strain of virus). 

What are the symptoms of swine flu?

Symptoms of swine flu include a fever, cough, headache, weakness and fatigue, aching muscles and joints, sore throat and a runny nose.

Does the seasonal flu vaccine cover swine flu?

Yes - the technical name for swine flu is influenza A H1N1 (2009). The vaccine is made up every year to include the strains of flu that experts predict will be circulating in the winter. This year, it includes H1N1 (swine flu), influenza B and H3N2.

Are we still in a pandemic?

No. The World Health Organisation announced on 10 August 2010 that the pandemic was over. Although the H1N1 virus is circulating, it is now one of the seasonal flu strains. This is because when it circulated in 2009-10, it helped to establish a residual level of immunity in people exposed to it, which means that H1N1 now circulates like other seasonal flu viruses.

Who should have the vaccine?

You should have the seasonal flu vaccination if you fall into any of the following groups
• people aged 65 or over
• pregnant women
• people with a serious medical condition (see below)
• people living in a residential or nursing home
• the main carers for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer becomes ill
• healthcare or social care professionals directly involved in patient care
• those who work in close contact with poultry, such as chickens

Serious medical conditions, which put people at risk of flu, are

• chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, COPD or bronchitis,
• chronic heart disease, such as heart failure,
• chronic kidney disease,
• chronic liver disease,
• chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson's disease or motor neurone disease,
• diabetes,
• a problem with, or removal of, your spleen e.g. sickle cell disease.
• a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment).

.Should children be vaccinated?

Only if they are in an at-risk group (see above). The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has never recommended that healthy children under five (ie those who are not in an at-risk group) be vaccinated as part of the seasonal flu programme. The current advice is that the flu vaccine should be used to protect children from six months upwards who are in at risk groups and experts do not recommend the vaccination of children who do not have risk factors.

How long does it take to become immune after the jab?

A person starts to develop immunity roughly 5 to 10 days after having the vaccine.

How effective is the seasonal flu jab?

At least 75 per cent and potentially higher because it is well matched to the viruses that are circulating this winter.

Why not vaccinate the whole population?

Our influenza immunisation programme has been designed to protect those particularly at risk from serious disease, either from influenza itself or in whom influenza would make their underlying disease worse. This means that we use an age and risk group based approach in line with most other countries that have seasonal influenza vaccination programmes. We continue to monitor the current situation very carefully and JCVI keeps the policy for seasonal influenza vaccination under review as well.

Is there an egg-free vaccine for people who are allergic to eggs?

There are no egg-free seasonal flu vaccines for this year. Any at risk patient who has a severe egg allergy should seek medical advice from their GP.

What can we do to avoid flu altogether?

People in a risk group should get vaccinated. And everyone should practice good respiratory and hand hygiene, namely, by covering our nose and mouth when we sneeze, putting tissues in the bin and washing our hands regularly. This is why we re-launched the Catch it, Bin it, Kill it campaign to raise awareness.

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