Children are 'super spreaders' of flu during holiday season, warns NHS national medical director
Last week, it was reported that a rising number of patients had been admitted to hospitals and intensive care units across England with cases of flu.
Medical professionals describe flu jabs as the “best defence” to fight the highly-infectious disease, which saw an increase of 330 cases of flu in hospitals in the week leading up to 8 December.
This year, more people over the age of 65 have been vaccinated against the flu in comparison to 2018.
However, less than one third of two and three-year-olds have had flu jabs this winter, despite the fact that children are “super spreaders” of the disease.
According to Public Health England’s (PHE) most recent data, the number of patients who have booked appointments with doctors on account of flu-like symptoms has increased by almost a quarter in the past week.
“We know that children are ‘super spreaders’ of flu, particularly around the holiday season when they’re more likely to see elderly relatives,” said Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of the NHS.
“So our message is simple: the flu season is here, get your jab now. It might be the difference between a Christmas to remember, and one to forget.”
Professor Powis explained that it can be very dangerous for elderly people and those with underlying health condition to become infected with the flu, because it can lead to “really serious conditions” such as pneumonia and bronchitis and result in “a lengthy stay in hospital”.
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, outlined how the increase in people being treated for flu puts pressure on hospital services, especially when it causes elderly people to suffer from more serious health conditions.
“The winter flu season has started early in the UK and it is important that everyone who is eligible gets the flu jab from their GP or pharmacist,” Professor Whitty said.
“The vaccine is the best defence against flu whilst practising sensible hygiene can reduce the spread of flu.”
This year, PHE has reinstated its “Catch It, Bin It, Kill It” campaign in order to encourage people to practise better hygiene and thus prevent the spread of the disease.
Young children, pregnant women, those over the age of 65 and people with underlying medical conditions are especially encouraged to be vaccinated against the flu and to obtain a nasal spray from a pharmacy.
To read more about the flu jab, click here.