PHE issues double virus warning, urges flu vaccinations

PHE issues double virus warning, urges flu vaccinations

New Public Health England research suggests that people infected with both viruses between January and April were more at risk of severe illness and death.

Three of the nation’s senior medics – Dr Yvonne Doyle, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and Dr Nikita Kanani – are calling on all eligible people to get vaccinated against flu, as new research from Public Health England (PHE) suggests the risk of death more than doubled for people who tested positive for both flu and COVID-19, compared to those with COVID-19 alone.

The research, looking at cases between January and April this year, also found that those with co-infection of the 2 viruses were more at risk of severe illness. Most cases of co-infection were in older people and more than half of them died.

The Flu vaccination programme is being expanded to help protect people from flu and ease pressure on the NHS and urgent care services.

All primary school children and, for the first time, Year 7 children will be offered the flu ‘nasal spray’ in schools to reduce community transmission. Two- and three-year-olds will be offered the vaccine through their GP.

It will also be offered to household contacts of people on the NHS Shielded Patient List and all health and all social care workers who have direct contact with the people they care for.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England, said:

"It is dangerous to dismiss influenza as ‘just’ the flu – it can be extremely serious and can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death.

The flu vaccine is more important than ever, to help reduce transmission of flu and protect the nation from the double threat of flu and COVID-19. You may be offered it for the first time this year – it is important that you take up the offer to protect yourself and others."

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor, Jonathan Van-Tam, said:

"Flu can be deadly and it is easily spread in children and adults. The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from becoming ill with the flu, especially if you are in a vulnerable group.

This winter with COVID still circulating, and the increased risk to life if you are ill with both viruses simultaneously, it is even more vital to get the free jab as soon as you can."

Dr Nikita Kanani, London GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said:

"My frontline NHS colleagues across England are working harder than ever to prepare for winter, including expanding and adapting services to ensure people can get the care and vaccinations they need safely and conveniently.

So if you are eligible, please help us help you and get your free flu vaccine as soon as possible. It could save your life, or someone you love."

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