Flu cases are set to explode in the face of a “super cold snap” currently covering Britain, experts have warned.
The Met Office said arctic photos the air will hit our shores this week – “which means much colder and wetter weather”.
An expert today urged people to come forward for their flu shots and said absorption in some groups has been low.
Dr Conall Watson, a consultant epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said although some have already received their injection, the UK needs to take “one more step this winter”.
He explained: “Temperatures are dropping and winter is approaching. The flu usually rises at this time of year, so if you’re eligible for an NHS flu shot and haven’t had it yet, please book as soon as you can.
“We have now met the World Health Organization’s target for influenza vaccination in people aged 65 and over, but we need to go further to make sure more people are protected this winter. “
He particularly urged people of black Caribbean or black African descent to come forward for their jabs, as he said absorption in those groups was lower than in others.
“The 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 latest flu surveillance report found that hospital admissions and GP visits for the flu have remained low.
Absorption in most age groups is higher than in previous years, but in children two to three years old and school-aged children absorption is slightly lower than last year .
The flu gets worse during the winter months, and the cold can exacerbate symptoms of the common illness.
As with the Covid, it is important to maintain hygiene habits this winter.
Dr Watson said following these habits is the best way to protect yourself and others from common seasonal illnesses.
“It means washing your hands regularly, using a tissue to catch a cough or sneeze and washing your hands afterwards, and staying away from others if you are not feeling well,” he said.
Experts had previously warned of a “very difficult winter” with the combined threat of Covid and influenza.
Are you eligible for a free flu shot?
The flu shot is given free by the NHS to people who:
- are 50 years old and over (including those who will be 50 years old on March 31, 2022)
- have certain health problems
- are pregnant
- are in a long-term care institution
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the primary caregiver of an elderly or disabled person who may be at risk if you fall ill
- living with someone more likely to get infections (such as someone who is HIV positive, has had a transplant, or is receiving certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
- frontline health or social service workers
Health chiefs also warned flu deaths could reach 60,000 this winter after the lockdowns and social distancing, immunity plummeted.
Boots UK chief pharmacist Marc Donovan said UK flu cases were highest between December and March.
He explained, “The influenza vaccine stimulates the immune system to respond to it by producing antibodies against the influenza virus.
“The antibodies stay in your body so that if you are naturally exposed to the flu virus, your immune system can recognize it, attack it, and stop it from causing the flu.”
Typically, it takes 10-14 days after the flu shot for the body to develop enough antibodies – which is why you need to make sure you have yours booked before Christmas.
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