Wednesday, February 21, 2018
With the NHS bursting at the seams the last thing we needed was a flu outbreak. Since the beginning of winter 2017, statistics from Public Health England (PHE) have revealed that nearly 2000 people have been hospitalised with H3N2 or ‘Aussie flu’ and there have been 85 associated deaths.
While not the biggest outbreak we have experienced - the Spanish flu of 1918 is believed to have affected 500 million people, killing as many as 50 million globally - this particular epidemic comes at a time when hardly a day goes by without stories of the struggling NHS topping our newsfeeds.
The NHS is at breaking point and cannot cope with a surge in demand. If, as reports suggest, the situation gets worse before it gets better, we will be in serious trouble. Just last week a letter, signed by consultants in charge of emergency departments in 68 acute hospitals across England and Wales, warned that patients were ‘dying prematurely in hospital corridors’.
The public has to take affirmative action to prevent the spread of the Flu virus, something which can be done for as little as £10 at multiple convenient locations on the high street, ranging from independent pharmacies to high street chains and even supermarkets. Yet people seem reluctant to take the necessary preemptive steps to protect themselves.
So what’s stopping them and what can we do about it? Here are some of the common arguments against getting the Flu jab and the counter arguments:
You may not be, but if you have contact with those who are (elderly relatives, pregnant women, children) then by default you are more likely to get the flu. Conversely, you are putting them at greater risk but not getting yourself immunised as you could pass it on to them.
Just because you have been lucky in the past and avoided the flu, doesn’t mean that will always be the case. Why chance it?
New vaccines are developed every year as the flu virus mutates. Last year’s vaccine may not provide sufficient protection against this year’s outbreak, and the immunisation itself can become less effective over time.
This is a common misconception. No live virus is injected, so you cannot get the flu directly from the jab. There can be side effects, including a raised temperature and muscle aches, but these are far less serious than contracting the Flu itself. Immunisation can take up to two weeks to become fully effective so you may well get Flu in the interim period but symptoms may be milder because of the injection.
The flu virus can lead to flu-related pneumonia, Britain’s deadliest infection which kills as many as 30,000 people every year.
Are you sure it wasn’t a cold? The two are often confused. Symptoms of the Flu include: a high temperature, severe body aches, backaches and headaches for days or even weeks making it hard to work and go about your day to day life.
It has been suggested that the flu season will carry on into February and may last until May – so there’s still plenty of time to get immunised.
Because the Flu virus mutates every year, there is a certain amount of prediction involved with developing the vaccine for the coming Flu season, as a result it is not nearly as effective as other jabs (a complete course of MMR for example is 97% effective at preventing measles). Having said that, any vaccine which helps to mitigate the impact of such a virulent virus is surely worth the price of a cinema ticket?
Vaccinations can cause severe side effects. Side affects from the flu vaccination tend to be mild. Severe reactions are rare. As with all vaccinations it is a question of weighing up the benefits versus the risk. Flu and the associated complications can be extreme and even life threatening, particularly for those in vulnerable groups (elderly, children, pregnant women).
So what are you waiting for? Get a jab in January and the vaccine will be fully effective by Valentine’s Day, maximising your chances of a romantic evening with your loved one – rather than a date with your duvet.