What is seasonal flu?
Influenza (flu) is a short illness that is caused by a virus; it's highly infectious and can affect people of all ages. However, there are some groups more at risk from flu than others, as it can lead to pneumonia and in some cases death. Every year during the flu season there is a national campaign aimed at people aged over 65 years old, people with an existing long term condition, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system which routinely invites them for a flu vaccination, as they are particularly at risk from flu.
What do we know?
In Shropshire during the 2011-12 flu season the percentage uptake of flu vaccination in people aged 65 and over was 72.8%, which is lower than the national target of 75% and the national average (74%). The percentage uptake for people with long term conditions was 52%, which is similar to the national figure (51.6%), but lower than the aspirational figure of 60%. The proportion of pregnant women vaccinated in Shropshire was 40.8%; this is much higher than the national figure of 27.4%.
There is variation in the vaccination rates between GP practices in Shropshire, with some achieving over 80% and others achieving less than 65% uptake in people aged 65 years or over. The variation between GP practices in Shropshire for the percentage of at-risk patients being vaccinated is even greater than that for people aged 65 years and over, with some practices achieving over 65% of patients vaccinated and others achieving under 45%. There is no relationship between deprivation and flu vaccination uptake.
What can we do?
There are three main ways of preventing flu:
- Hygiene – hand washing and cleaning
- Flu vaccinations
- Antiviral medicine