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BSI response to media coverage of current flu outbreak

Swine flu virus. Credit: NIAID12 January 2018

In response to ongoing reports on the level of influenza cases currently occurring in the UK, the British Society for Immunology has issued the following statement:

Dr Peter Barlow, British Society for Immunology spokesperson, & Associate Professor of Immunology & Infection, Edinburgh Napier University, said:

“Influenza virus is not like the common cold virus – it causes an infection that can lead to serious illness, and even death.  Flu viruses constantly change, meaning that each year, scientists identify the flu strains in circulation and target the vaccine accordingly. Therefore it is incredibly important that people get vaccinated each year to protect against current circulating strains of the flu virus.

“We know each year that the influenza vaccine is not 100% effective but it is the best way we currently have of preventing the spread of this virus. It has been shown that the flu vaccine can significantly reduce the risk of a child dying from influenza infection.  We know that the more people that are vaccinated against flu, the less people will contract it.

“The flu vaccine offered this year does give a level of protection against a range of circulating flu strains.  It is free to people over 65, pregnant women and people with a long-term illness as well as healthcare workers and carers. Younger children are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine as a nasal spray.  The flu vaccine not only reduces the risk of catching the virus yourself, but also of spreading the infection to other people. 

“You can also prevent the spread of the virus by regularly washing your hands often with warm water and soap.  This is also effective because the virus can survive outside of a person for 24 hours, and be spread by people touching contaminated surfaces.

“I would absolutely urge people to get vaccinated against flu today, as this can still help prevent the spread of the virus."

You can find more information about flu and the flu vaccination on the NHS Choices website.  

Public Health England have also published a blog answering key questions about flu and flu vaccination.