Flu levels are comfortingly low...for now

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FLU levels across the borough are at a low level according to health chiefs who are releasing regular bulletins on the illness for the first time.

The Health Protection Agency’s weekly flu report comprises information from a comprehensive range of surveillance schemes that monitor the levels of flu activity in the UK population.

The first report will be welcomed by Wigan’s NHS services. Earlier this month it was revealed that some surgeries were struggling to get hold of flu vaccines due to supply issues. Dr Richard Pebody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at the HPA, said: “The 2011/2012 flu season was one of the lowest on record – following two years of high flu activity, including the 2009 flu pandemic. This demonstrates how unpredictable the flu season can be.

“Every season we remain vigilant and assess the flu situation on a weekly basis as more information becomes available from our various surveillance systems and from the different virus samples we receive from across the UK. For the majority of people, flu is an unpleasant, but not life-threatening illness. But it can be dangerous for certain groups in the population, such as the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and those who have a weakened immune system, as well as pregnant women.

“If you are in an at risk group you may already have been or will be invited to receive your flu jab this season by your GP If you haven’t already, the HPA strongly recommends that all those in an at risk group accept the flu vaccination to remain healthy this coming winter. As in previous seasons we will produce our weekly flu report which will detail the flu viruses that are circulating together with information on the levels of influenza illness in the population. This helps to inform health professionals.

“Once flu reaches the level at which it is circulating widely in the general population, it triggers a notification that doctors are advised to use antiviral drugs for the prevention or treatment of flu in patients who are at higher risk of developing complications.”