Influenza or 'flu' is a respiratory illness associated with infection by influenza virus. Symptoms frequently include headache, fever, cough, sore throat, aching muscles and joints.
Influenza occurs most often in winter and usually peaks between December and March in the northern hemisphere. There are two main types that cause infection: influenza A and influenza B. Influenza A usually causes a more severe illness. The influenza virus is unstable and new strains and variants are constantly emerging, which is one of the reasons why the flu vaccine should be given each year.
For most people, influenza infection is just a nasty experience, but for some it can lead to more serious illnesses. The most common complications of influenza are bronchitis and secondary bacterial pneumonia. These illnesses may require treatment in hospital and can be life threatening, especially in the elderly, asthmatics and those in poor health. It’s estimated that 8,000 people die every year in the UK due to influenza, although this number can be higher in a bad season.
Information for health professionals
Seasonal Influenza is an annual occurrence, and whilst it is impossible to predict the exact timing, severity and extent of the season, every year Health and Social Care organisations in Northern Ireland plan for the demands of seasonal flu as part of wider planning during the winter months.
The Department of Health is responsible for developing strategy and policy on all issues to do with influenza, including immunisation. Details are communicated directly to the service by the Chief Medical Officer and can be found in the following links:
- Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Programme 2018/19, published June 2018 www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/hss-md-11-2018.pdf
- Management of Seasonal Influenza 2018/19 ( released September)
- Confirmed Influenza Isolates in Northern Ireland – NICE guidance on use of antivirals now applies, published after season commences, usually in December
Annual flu vaccination programme for the public
Vaccination of at risk groups and children offer the best protection against influenza infection. The following flu training resources are available for health professionals:
Seasonal Flu Training 2018/19
Video PowerPoint presentation: https://vimeo.com/283014145
Influenza immunisation programme 2018/19 factsheet for healthcare professionals
Latest Influenza chapter of Immunisation against Infectious Diseases, the ‘Green Book’
E-learning for Healthcare (e-LfH)
Annual flu vaccination campaign for Health and Social Care Workers
Every year, HSC Trusts are responsible for the delivery of the annual flu vaccination campaign for frontline Health and Social Care Workers (HSCWs). It is important that front line HSCWs get vaccinated against flu to protect themselves, their families and their patients.
The following resources are available for Trust flu teams to support them in the delivery of their campaigns:
- Frontline Health and Social Care Worker 2018/19 seasonal influenza vaccine campaign: Trust guidance on data collection of vaccine uptake Frontline Health and Social Care Worker 2018/19 seasonal influenza vaccine campaign: Regional Peer Vaccinator Training Recommendations for Influenza Vaccine - PHA Peer Vaccinator Training Recommendations FINAL 11-07-18.pdf
- Flu fighter’s ® website http://www.nhsemployers.org/campaigns/flu-fighter/nhs-flu-fighter/your-campaign
Guidance for management of influenza in nursing and residential homes
Seasonal influenza vaccination of care home residents and staff is central to limiting the risk of flu outbreaks and reducing the risk of severe infection. The PHA has produced the following guidance on the management of influenza-like illness (ILI) in care homes and includes information on risk assessment, surveillance, infection control, outbreak management, as well as antiviral treatment and prophylaxis.
Influenza weekly surveillance bulletins
Please click here to view all recent surveillance bulletins from the PHA.