Health officials issue Christmas influenza warning
Public Health Wales is reporting that the flu season in Wales has begun earlier than usual this year and is warning that levels of flu in the community may peak around Christmas.
Health official are urging those who are eligible for a free flu vaccine to take up the offer now, to help protect themselves and others from getting seriously ill with flu this Christmas.
The warning comes as flu has been detected circulating in the community in Wales in recent weeks.
Cases have also been confirmed in patients attending hospitals.
As well as flu, PHW is also detecting high levels of other respiratory viruses circulating widely in the community.
Wales is already experiencing its second season of RSV* this year (a common cause of bronchiolitis in toddlers and young children).
Since March 2020, the start of the Covid pandemic in the UK, the normal pattern of circulation of many respiratory viruses was disrupted and as our lives are going back to normal after lockdown, some viruses are returning in higher numbers.
Dr Christopher Johnson, Consultant Epidemiologist and Interim Head of Public Health Wales’ Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme says; “Flu can be serious, particularly for those who are older or have a health condition and are more vulnerable to complications as a result of the flu.
“We often socialise more at Christmas and are more likely to see vulnerable elderly relatives.
“Vaccinations are the best way to protect ourselves and loved ones from getting seriously ill this winter.”
Deaths and severe outcomes of flu infection are seen in every season and in the last season which saw very high levels of circulation (in 2017/18) the number of excess seasonal deaths estimated in Wales during the winter was 3,400, the highest in more than 20 years.
Not all of these deaths would have been due to respiratory disease, but Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimated that 34.7% of excess deaths reported in England and Wales that winter were caused by respiratory disease. The highest number of weekly deaths coincided with the peak week of influenza activity.
The flu vaccine is the most effective way of preventing being infected with the virus PHW say.
Its side effects are mild and usually only last for a few days. Vaccination is particularly important for those who are older, pregnant, or have a health condition and are more vulnerable to complications as a result of the infections.
It is also very important that frontline healthcare workers and those who work in care homes or providing care in peoples own homes get their vaccines to help reduce spread.
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