Flu crisis fears – elderly and pregnant most at risk

Senior doctors are "deeply concerned" about the prospect of a major flu crisis this winter because the people who are most at risk are not coming forward for seasonal flu jabs.

An estimated 67 per cent of patients aged 65 or older, and 41.5 per cent of those aged 65 or under in the at-risk groups have received the vaccine so far this year – compared to nearly 70 per cent and 47 per cent last year. It is not clear why there has been a fall in take-up, but some doctors have blamed unfounded reports about the side effects of the swine flu vaccine. This year's vaccine protects against swine flu, which is circulating again, and other strains including flu type B.

The British Medical Association (BMA) wrote to the Government yesterday, urging it to step up its publicity campaign and warning that lower immunisation rates could mean the normal seasonal flu outbreak is much more serious. "Doctors are seeing high rates of influenza and have been telling us they are also seeing a lower uptake than usual for seasonal flu immunisation," said Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee. "We strongly urge patients to make an appointment with their GP and get vaccinated."

Earlier this week, The Independent reported that 17 people had died from flu this winter. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said 14 deaths were caused by swine flu and another three by type B flu. Of those who died, all were under 65, with six deaths among children under 18. At least eight of the 17 people were in an "at-risk" group, and none had been vaccinated.

Data also showed that the number of people seeking treatment from family doctors for flu-like illness has risen to 35 cases per 100,000, up from 13 in the previous week. The highest rates are among babies aged one to four and children aged five to 14.

The groups most at risk include people over 65, those with chronic heart or chest complaints, people with asthma, chronic kidney disease, diabetes or lowered immunity caused by cancer.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, said yesterday: "It is particularly important for all pregnant women, no matter what stage they have reached in their pregnancy, to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. This year, pregnant women are being offered the vaccine free of charge.

"Pregnant women are more likely to become seriously ill if they catch flu, which is why it is particularly important for them to get their jabs."

Dr Katie Laird, a senior lecturer in pharmaceutical microbiology at De Montfort University in Leicestershire, added: "Due to the nature of the flu virus – where mutations occur readily – it is difficult for the body's immune system to recognise the infection and can leave individuals such as the young, elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems without much natural immunity against the virus."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

    Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

    Day In a Page

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks