Health chiefs prepare for flu case surge

Parents are being urged to remain vigilant over the threat of flu amid an expected rise in new cases as people return to work and school following the Christmas holidays.

Health experts also stressed that it was not too late for members of "at risk" groups, including those with chronic respiratory problems, to be vaccinated against flu, which has been linked to 39 deaths in Britain since October.

Professor John Oxford, an expert in virology at St Bartholomew's and the Royal London Hospital, said the return of children to school had in the past prompted a rise in the number of flu cases.

"You tend to get a surge," he said. "I would anticipate a surge, but how long that will last is difficult to say."

Recommending that parents of children in high-risk groups should have them vaccinated as soon as possible, Prof Oxford added: "This virus is not going to go away next week. Even if it's already peaked, it's still going to be around for the next couple of weeks and it's still worthwhile being vaccinated at this stage."

Parents had no need to panic but should adopt a disciplined approach to curbing the spread of flu, said the expert, who advised them to keep children away from school if they showed signs of flu.

Although closing schools in response to flu pandemics had not proved effective, Prof Oxford said parents were far from "powerless" and could aid the fight against the virus by ensuring good hand hygiene and keeping children away from others with the illness where possible.

Dr Douglas Fleming, director of the Royal College of General Practitioners' Research and Surveillance Centre, also voiced concern that the current flu outbreak may not have peaked despite the fact that a large number of children had already had the virus.

"This is a H1 virus and we know that spreads rapidly amongst children," Dr Fleming noted.

"I personally don't feel that we have quite reached the peak."

The Government relaunched its national flu prevention campaign on New Year's Day in an attempt to quell the rising number of people being diagnosed with the illness.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ordered the reinstatement after it was confirmed that the number of people in critical care with confirmed or suspected flu in England has risen to 738, including 42 youngsters under five.

Government advisers from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are also continuing to urge the vulnerable to be vaccinated against the virus.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirmed last week that the vast majority of the 39 people to die since October had been diagnosed as having the 2009 strain of swine flu.

HPA officials said that although many people reported relatively mild symptoms during the pandemic, flu could be an extremely serious illness for people in "at risk" groups, including pregnant women, the elderly and those with other underlying conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, lung, liver or renal diseases, and those with weakened immune systems.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss