CASES of the flu are expected to explode in the face of a ‘super cold snap’ of weather currently blanketing Britain, experts have warned.
The Met Office has said shots of Arctic air will hit our shores this week – “meaning much colder and wetter weather”.
One expert today urged people to come forward for their flu jabs and said that uptake in some groups had been low.
Dr Conall Watson, consultant epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said while some have had their jab already, the UK needed to go ‘one step further this winter’.
He explained: “Temperatures are dropping, and winter is approaching. Flu typically increases at this time of the year, so if you are eligible for an NHS flu vaccine and haven’t had it yet, please book as soon as you can.
“We have now met the World Health Organisation target for flu vaccine uptake in those aged 65 and over, but we need to go further to make sure more people are protected this winter.”
He especially urged people from Black Caribbean or Black African backgrounds to come forward for their jabs as he said uptake in these groups was lower than in others.
“Flu can cause serious complications for people with conditions like diabetes and stroke that are more common in black ethnic groups”, he said.
His comments come after the most recent flu surveillance report revealed that hospital admissions and GP consultations for the flu have remained low.
Uptake in most age groups is higher than in previous years but it children two to three years-old and in school-ages kids, uptake is slightly lower than last year.
Flu gets worse in winter months and the cold weather can exacerbate symptoms of the common illness.
As with Covid, it’s important to keep up hygiene habits this winter.
Dr Watson said that keeping up with these habits is the best way to protect yourself and others from common seasonal illnesses.
“This means washing your hands regularly, using a tissue to catch coughs or sneezes and washing your hands afterwards, and staying away from others if you feel unwell”, he said.
Experts previously warned of a ‘very difficult winter’ with the combined threat of Covid and flu.
Are you eligible for a free flu jab?
The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to people who:
- are 50 and over (including those who’ll be 50 by 31 March 2022)
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
- frontline health or social care workers
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency said those who catch both illnesses at the same time are twice as likely to die than patients with coronavirus alone.
Health chiefs also warned deaths from flu could reach 60,000 this winter after lockdowns and social distancing saw immunity plummet.
Boots UK’s Chief Pharmacist Marc Donovan said flu cases in the UK are highest between December and March.
He explained: “The flu vaccine stimulates the immune system to respond to it by producing antibodies against the flu virus.
“The antibodies stay in your body so that if you’re exposed to the flu virus naturally, your immune system can recognise it, attack it and prevent it from causing flu.”
Typically it takes between 10 and 14 days after having the flu jab for the body to develop enough antibodies – which is why you need to make sure you get yours booked in before Christmas.
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