11th October 2016

Flu Fighters Wales

Flu Fighters Wales

 

It's 'the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness', when the leaves turn russet and copper and the once roaring golden summer-sun is but a watery haze hidden behind cloud and showers. Autumn also marks the beginning of something altogether less poetic, the annual flu season.

Influenza and Vaccination

Fortunately for those who most require it, there is vaccination against influenza (flu). Periodically, there are flu 'pandemics' where a particularly virulent strain spreads across continents leaving a trail of deaths. The most recent of these was in 2009, when The World Health Organization (WHO) announced a global pandemic of the H1N1 strain of swine flu.

Contrary to common opinion, the flu vaccine is not an unchanging preparation, the same every year. Rather it is researched and refined each year, as the WHO and pharmaceutical scientists develop the vaccine to deal with the current strains of flu, which are mutating all the time. This developmental nature of flu makes finalising the vaccine something of a 'judgement-call', as WHO and the pharma companies have to forecast which strains will be dominant each year. The vaccine is therefore designed to give as much 'specific' and 'broad' coverage as possible. Fortunately, research has shown that the vaccines have provided a high level of protection.

Groups Vulnerable to Flu

Whilst flu is never a pleasant business, it is worse... much worse, for those who have a weakened immune system and compromised resistance to infection. NHS Wales recommends that these individuals should receive the flu vaccine in order to be protected. Anyone in these risk groups is more likely to develop potentially serious complications, including dehydration, ear and nose infections or respiratory complications including pneumonia. influenza can also exacerbate the effects of existing chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes or congestive heart failure.

Vulnerable Individuals

  • Are 65 years of age or over
  • Are pregnant
  • Have certain medical conditions
  • Are very overweight
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
  • Receive a carer's allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
  • Are a front-line health and social care worker... It is your employer's responsibility to arrange vaccination for you
  • Chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases such as asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Chronic heart disease
  • Chronic kidney or liver disease (hepatitis)

Care Providers

Many individuals receiving social care will be included within this list of conditions rendering someone vulnerable to the effects of influenza. Ultimately a GP or NHS Direct Wales can offer best advice as to whether an individual is vulnerable. Outbreaks of flu often occur in health and social care settings, and, because flu is so contagious, staff, patients and residents are all at risk of infection. Care workers are also therefore, considered a priority for vaccination, because of their essential work and the risk of transmission. Care providers therefore need to consider what steps they should take in working with partner agencies to ensure their clients and workers have access to advice and vaccination.

For further info, see http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/page/43745

 

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Nic Bowler

Welsh Care and Social Services Inspectorate Specialist

Dr Nicholas Bowler is a researcher and consultant to government-level [Welsh Government Review of Secure Services, 2009] – specialising in QA/compliance focused projects. He has interests in clinically relevant training, service development and research. He enjoys working with clients to support them in identifying problems and initiating projects to improve practice.

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