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21-06-2012 | General practice | Article

Winter flu ‘all time low’

Abstract

Health Protection Agency – Annual Flu Report

MedWire News: The number of GP visits related to flu last winter was the lowest ever recorded, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) says.

The HPA 2011/2012 annual flu report shows that GP consultation rates did not go over the baseline threshold of 30 cases per 100,000. In comparison, 130 cases per 100,000 were seen at the peak of the previous flu season.

The flu season also started late, the HPA points out, with cases not peaking until mid-February.

However, respiratory infections due to flu were up on the previous season, mainly in care homes for the elderly.

Dr Richard Pebody, head of the HPA's influenza surveillance said: "Although we had low overall levels of flu seen last winter we must continue to reinforce the message that flu is a serious illness in people at risk of complications and vaccination ahead of the flu season is the best way to minimise the risk of serious illness or death."

Vaccination rates were up slightly on the previous year in those over 65, at 74% compared with 73%, and among those under 65 in a clinical at-risk group, at 52% versus 50%. But uptake was down among healthy pregnant women, at 25% compared with 37% the previous year, and pregnant women at risk, at 51% versus 57%.

"We remain concerned that just over half of those under 65 who were eligible for vaccination last winter took up the offer of a jab, and that only a quarter of healthy pregnant women received it," Dr Pebody said.

"Healthcare professionals - particularly GPs and midwifes - have an important role to play in encouraging those at risk to take up the offer of vaccination, as well as setting a good example by taking up the offer of vaccination themselves to reduce the likelihood of infecting their patients."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price