FOR UK HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS ONLY

This section is intended for healthcare professionals and associated healthcare employees who are involved in patient care or service provision for influenza immunisation in the UK only – this includes (but is not limited to) GPs, nurses, practice managers, pharmacists, and pharmacy counter assistants.

I AM A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED HEALTHCARE EMPLOYEE I AM NOT A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED HEALTHCARE EMPLOYEE

Risks from flu in people with immunosuppression

Immunosuppression refers to a reduction in the effectiveness of your immune system. This can happen for several reasons:

  • A range of medications for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
  • Cancer treatments like chemotherapy
  • Diseases such as HIV/AIDs, which suppress the entire immune system1

Immunosuppression can even be induced deliberately if you have an organ or bone marrow transplant, to prevent your body rejecting the new organ or cells1.

However it is caused, having a weak immune system puts you at a greater risk of catching or developing infections and this includes flu2. It also puts you at a greater risk of developing complications from flu, such as secondary lung infections or pneumonia2.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses predominantly circulate during the winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches, as this is when you are most vulnerable.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu3, and if you have immunosuppression, for whatever reason, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter4.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

If you have immunosuppression, your doctor may have already advised you to avoid crowded public places (particularly enclosed spaces such as restaurants and shops) to reduce your risk of contact with people who may have flu or any other infections.

If you’re unable to avoid public transport, try and wash your hands regularly (for example, after every trip), cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible. If you live with other people, or you have regular visitors, it’s also a good idea for them to receive a flu vaccination too, to reduce the risk of them passing the virus onto you.

 

You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.

*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.

 

References

  1. Kunisaki K et al. Influenza in immunosuppressed populations: a review of infection frequency, morbidity, mortality, and vaccine responses. Lancet Infect Dis. 2009;9(8):493–504.
  2. NHS Wales Direct. Flu, Seasonal, February 2018. Available online: http://www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/encyclopaedia/f/article/flu,seasonal/ (accessed August 2018)
  3. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
  4. Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)

 

 

Adverse Event Reporting

I AM A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED EMPLOYEE I AM NOT A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL OR ASSOCIATED EMPLOYEE