Leading article: Don't ignore this year's flu

Share
Related Topics

Diseases have their cycles and flu is no different.

Each winter we expect an outbreak and each winter one occurs. But this winter something odd is happening. Monitoring suggests there is not very much flu about in the community – just above baseline levels, according to the latest figures from the Health Protection Agency. Yet there is a disproportionate number of severe cases that require intensive care and end, in a few cases, in death. Moreover, most of those hardest hit are young, whereas flu traditionally carries off the old.

After last year's pandemic, H1N1 swine flu has become the dominant seasonal virus and is likely to remain so for years to come. It is mild in most people but nasty in some, especially pregnant women, and those with chronic health problems, such as asthma and diabetes. Pregnant women are at risk because pregnancy reduces the immune response to prevent the mother's body from rejecting the baby. In contrast, older people have some protection by virtue of having been exposed to viruses circulating 35 to 40 years ago.

The surge of severe cases in the past fortnight, which has seen more than 100 intensive-care beds nationwide occupied by swine-flu patients, may be a blip. But specialists fear it will grow, putting extra pressure on NHS intensive care and threatening more young lives. The British Medical Association warned yesterday of a "major flu crisis" this winter as vaccination rates have fallen. Dame Sally Davies, the Government's acting Chief Medical Officer, appealed to pregnant women to protect themselves with the vaccine.

National vaccination rates are 2 per cent down on last year, at 67.2 per cent for over-65s and 41.6 per cent for under-65s in the at-risk groups. Anecdotal reports suggest that in some areas the figure is much lower.

For pregnant women and others with health problems, flu vaccination should now be the priority. The Department of Health needs to act now to get the message across.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Army reservist Corporal James Dunsby  

Whether it’s in the City, the Army or at school, this ritual sadism has to stop

Chris Blackhurst
Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, unveiled her new name on Monday  

'I'm the happiest I've been for a long time and I finally know where I fit': Here's why role models matter for trans kids

Susie Green
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific