Doc­tors braced for win­ter flu out­break amid fears over vac­cine

Iran Daily - - Health -

Doc­tors in Bri­tain are brac­ing them­selves for an out­break of flu in the next few weeks that could match Aus­tralia’s re­cent epi­demic — one of the worst for a decade. Ac­cord­ing to the­, at least 170,000 cases were con­firmed at the end of the Aus­tralian win­ter, more than twice as many as in 2016.

Fed­eral health of­fi­cials said they logged 72 flure­lated deaths among this year’s to­tal.

Pro­fes­sor An­drew Eas­ton, of War­wick Uni­ver­sity, said, “We know that the virus re­spon­si­ble for a large num­ber of those cases was a strain of the H3N2 in­fluenza virus.

“A sim­i­lar vi­ral strain was used to cre­ate part of the vac­cine that has been dis­trib­uted round Bri­tain this month. How­ever, we do not know how well it will work un­til this year’s flu epi­demic be­gins.”

The flu out­break that struck Aus­tralia and New Zealand was not par­tic­u­larly se­vere in in­di­vid­ual terms.

Most deaths oc­curred among the el­derly, as is of­ten the case with in­fluenza.

One of the worst out­breaks oc­curred at a sin­gle nurs­ing home, St. John’s Re­tire­ment Vil­lage in Wan­garatta in Vic­to­ria’s north­east. A to­tal of seven el­derly peo­ple died.

How­ever, the sheer num­ber of cases trig­gered dur­ing the out­break was un­ex­pected.

Eas­ton said, “We are still not sure why so many cases oc­curred this year in Aus­tralia.

“It may have been that sur­veil­lance in some ar­eas was bet­ter than it had been in the past. This could have pro­duced an ap­par­ent in­crease in numbers of cases.

“Or it could be that there was some­thing dif­fer­ent, in terms of vir­u­lence, with the H3N2 strain that af­fected Aus­tralia. We should cer­tainly be cau­tious.”

Pro­fes­sor John Ox­ford, of Queen Mary Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don, said, “It would be com­mon sense to be pre-armed and to be as proac­tive as we can in pre­par­ing to pro­tect our­selves from this year’s flu out­break.”

The main un­known is the ef­fi­cacy of the vac­cine that is now be­ing ad­min­is­tered in the UK.

Ev­ery year, World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion re­views the main strains of in­fluenza in cir­cu­la­tion glob­ally and rec­om­mends which of these should be used as the tar­gets for the fol­low­ing sea­son’s vac­cine pro­gram.

These strains were se­lected nine months ago, be­fore the Aus­tralian out­break oc­curred.

Richard Pe­body of Pub­lic Health Eng­land, said, “We know his­tor­i­cally that flu vac­cines are usu­ally 40 per­cent to 60 per­cent ef­fec­tive.

“That means that hav­ing the vac­cine will re­duce your risk of get­ting flu by 40 to 60 per­cent com­pared with those not get­ting the vac­cine.

“Chil­dren aged two to eight, health care work­ers, and those over 65 should there­fore take the vac­cine.”

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