As the temperature begins to fall and we start to wear some extra layers and put our coats on, the flu virus is gearing up for the winter too. The outer coating of the virus toughens up in colder temperatures and lower humidity levels and is able to survive and spread easier amongst us all. For otherwise healthy people a bout of flu is at worst an unpleasant self-limiting illness. At best it can have little or no symptoms at all and this is the precise situation that helps the flu virus to thrive. Healthcare professionals can easily pass on flu to patients and family without even knowing and it is these people that can be at risk of complications from a flu infection.
For high-risk groups such as young children, the elderly or those with chronic conditions flu is a much bigger problem than a couple of days in bed. Complications include hypoxaemia, pneumonia, central nervous system involvement and/or a significant exacerbation of an underlying medical condition. Each year the World Health Organisation reviews the circulating strains of flu and recommends which flu strains should go into the flu vaccine. Sometimes due to complex factors and the way the virus evolves and mutates the vaccine is not as effective in certain groups of people as we would hope. This is why it is really important that all healthcare professionals get their flu jab to limit the spread of the virus and to help protect as many people from flu as possible. Australia has seen their worst flu season on record over the last few months with entire nursing homes becoming infected and many subsequent deaths occurring. It is impossible to know what the flu season will look like for us here in the UK this winter but we have a professional responsibility to protect ourselves and our patients however we can. Please get your flu jab! #flufighter
Liz Harris FCPara
College of Paramedics