More flu circulating than last three seasons and mutated strains?

Flu injection photo

Public Health England (PHE) has reported that there is more flu circulating this winter than in the past three seasons – and has also responded to media reports about a mutated strain that is making the vaccine ineffective.

In an online blog published last week, Head of Flu Surveillance Dr. Richard Pebody, explains how the World Health Organisation recommends which strains of flu are included in the vaccine, based on information from previous flu seasons and epidemiological data from around the world.

Influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of influenza almost every winter in the UK, but within influenza A viruses there are many subtypes. If a strain of flu is circulating that doesn’t match up with the strain in the vaccine, it’s called an antigenic mismatch or antigenic drift.

In last week’s flu report, PHE reported that of the viruses they have grown to date in their laboratory from people with flu caused by the H3N2 strain, the most dominant this season and a subtype of influenza A, 19 were expected and five showed evidence of antigenic drift.

However PHE have confirmed this does not mean that this year’s vaccine is ineffective; there will still be cross-protection from the current vaccine. The most effective way of preventing the spread of the flu virus is vaccination, and it is not too late to get vaccinated. It is important to remember that vaccination isn’t just about keeping yourself safe, it’s about protecting your colleagues, your family and your patients.

This year, the Trust’s flu campaign is going well with more staff choosing to be vaccinated than previous years, and so far a total of 36% of staff have been vaccinated. The campaign will run until 31st January, so there is still time for any staff that have not had their vaccine to get one. Clinics are being organised and advertised locally so please see your local team, or if you need help to find your nearest clinic please email the flu team on flu@eastamb.nhs.uk.

Published 27th January 2015 

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