28/02/2012

PHA Urges 'At-Risk' Groups To Get Flu Jab

Flu rates in Northern Ireland have been low so far this winter, but the number of cases has increased slightly in the last 1-2 weeks which may be an early sign of the start of flu season. The Public Health Agency, PHA, is therefore urging all those in ‘at-risk’ groups to make sure they are vaccinated.

The latest figures from the PHA show that people consulting their GP with flu or flu like illness (FLI) increased from 16.9 per 100,000 of the population in week four of 2012 to 25.9 per 100,000 in week six.

Whilst these figures remain low and are much lower than last year's peak of 263.5 per 100,000, the fact that they are increasing could mean the start of this year's flu season.

Laboratories are now detecting more flu which also suggests that flu viruses are starting to circulate. The flu strains that have been identified are all covered by this year’s flu jab and the PHA is continuing to urge 'at-risk' groups, and especially newly pregnant women, to get vaccinated before flu levels increase further.

Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA, said: "We have seen a small rise in the number of seasonal flu cases. Receiving the seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting the virus. So, if you are in an 'at-risk' group, get the vaccine now – it's still not too late.

"The flu vaccine campaign has been a great success this year with very high uptake rates, but there are still some people who have not been vaccinated and we would urge them to get the vaccine now. In particular, women who have become pregnant recently and may not have had the vaccine, should get the flu jab as soon as possible."

Pregnant women have responded extremely well to the PHA’s seasonal flu vaccination programme with over 57% having the vaccine by the end of December - exceeding the target set by the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety of 40%.

(CD/GK)

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