Flu and Influenza immunisation in UK-29,000 citizens died in 1989/90

Even during a winter where the incidence of flu is low, 3-4000 deaths may be attributed to ‘flu; this can rise much higher in epidemic years, for example there were an estimated 13,000 deaths in 1993 which were attributable to ‘flu and 29,000 in 1989/90.

INFLUENZA IMMUNISATION – KEY POINTS

Status 2002

  • The annual ‘flu immunisation is the best protection against ‘flu for people with underlying health problems that put them at risk of complications from ‘flu, and for all those aged 65 and over or in long stay residential care.
  • Government policy is to recommend immunisation for people aged 65 years and over.
  • An overall national target of 70% uptake of immunisation for people aged 65 years and over has been set.
  • This recommendation is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
  • Immunisation is one of the most effective healthcare interventions available and ‘flu vaccines are highly effective in preventing illness and hospital admissions among these groups of people.
  • Increasing the uptake of ‘flu vaccine among these high risk groups should also contribute to easing winter pressure on primary care services and hospital admissions.
  • Strategic health authorites and primary care trusts will be taking an active role in promoting ‘flu immunisation locally this year.
  • ‘Flu is not usually life threatening for healthy people.
  • NHS employers should offer ‘flu immunisation to staff working in the delivery of frontline care or directly supporting patients or clients. Social Services employers should consider doing likewise.

Influenza

  • Influenza is a highly infectious viral infection which occurs mainly in Winter. It is usually of sudden onset with fever, chills, painful muscles, headache, backache and cough.
  • Influenza for most people is an unpleasant but self-limiting illness, the main symptoms lasting up to about a week. Treatment is symptomatic and those affected are advised to stay at home, rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • For people in certain ‘high risk’ groups, such as those with underlying respiratory, heart or renal disease, diabetes mellitus, those with impaired immune systems and elderly people, ‘flu is a significant cause of more serious illness and deaths.
  • Complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia are more common in these ‘high risk groups’ especially if they are also elderly, and mortality is almost entirely in these groups.
  • Even during a winter where the incidence of flu is low, 3-4000 deaths may be attributed to ‘flu; this can rise much higher in epidemic years, for example there were an estimated 13,000 deaths in 1993 which were attributable to ‘flu and 29,000 in 1989/90.
  • Up to 10 to 15% of the population may develop influenza in any one year, varying from year to year. The number of people who consult their GP with ‘flu-like illness during influenza epidemics also varies considerably from year to year.
  • Influenza-like illness may be due to viruses other than influenza. Even during an influenza epidemic a proportion of so-called ‘influenza’ is due to other viruses.

UK Department of Health 2002

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