Seasonal influenza risks
Flu is a highly contagious viral infection occurring during winter months. In any given year there is a 1 in 6 chance of being infected with one of three possible prevailing strains of flu virus.
Each year the flu virus strains change, meaning individuals vaccinated in a previous year, are again at risk of catching and spreading the virus.
Flu is a major cause of absenteeism and use of healthcare services among working adults. The flu virus typically persists with symptoms up to 7 days. Individuals still require time to rebuild strength and resilience when returning to work to being fully productive.
There is equally a risk of employees being ‘present’ with flu symptoms, infecting vulnerable employees with conditions such as respiratory, diabetes, heart or kidney problems where the risk of complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia are increased from being exposed to the virus.
If infected, individuals will develop antibodies and be immune to that particular virus strain, but not to others. The influenza vaccine helps develop antibodies from all three common circulating strains in any given year, therefore it is more likely to achieve better long-term overall protection from vaccination than from natural resistance.
How can I protect my myself or my business from Influenza?
- have an influenza vaccination programme every year
- maintain high standards of personal hygiene, e.g. regularly wash your hands, as a person with influenza will often cough/sneeze on their hands and the virus is easily transmitted through close contact
- avoid close contact with people who are sick
- always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent spreading infections.
How is Influenza spread?
There are two main ways influenza is spread, both through the air and by contact with nose or throat secretions from an infected person. Transmission is easily accomplished by sneezing, coughing and talking.
One of the key risks to business is that influenza can make many people ill in a short period of time, with onset of symptoms usually ranging from 18 to 72 hours from infection.
How effective is the flu vaccination?
Flu vaccination is one of the safest and most effective vaccines, and prevents flu in between 70 and 90 percent of cases.
Who should have the flu jab?
Anyone can get flu and the vaccination is available to individuals over the age of 18. Flu strains mutate and change annually, and therefore previous vaccinations may not protect you from the current strain.
The flu vaccination is not advised for individuals who are:
- Allergic to eggs & poultry
- Who have had previous adverse reaction to the flu jab
Will the vaccine protect against flu strains such as A/H1N1 (swine flu)?
Yes. The seasonal flu vaccine will continue to protect against seasonal flu strains and the 2019/20 vaccine will provide cross-protection against A/H1N1 flu (swine flu).
What strains of virus does the vaccine contain?
The World Health Organisation and Department of Health instructed vaccine manufacturers to base influenza vaccinations for the 2018-19 season in the Northern Hemisphere on the following strains:
- an A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
- an A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus;
- a B/Colorado/06/2017-like virus (B/Victoria/2/87 lineage); and
- a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata/16/88 lineage)
It is recommended that the influenza B virus component of trivalent vaccines for use in the 2019-2020 northern hemisphere influenza season be a B/Colorado/06/2017-like virus of the B/Victoria/2/87-lineage.
3138 deaths caused by swine flu between June and November 2009 (source: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/12December/Pages/H1N1-swine-flu-virus-death-rate.aspx) and 602 deaths during 2010/11 flu season (source: http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1296687414154).
All other references taken from Health Protection Agency ‘Surveillance of influenza and other respiratory viruses in the UK’ report 2011 (www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/dth1010.pdf)