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 asplenia and/or dysfunction of the spleen

Asplenia refers to someone who has had his or her spleen removed and dysfunction of spleen is where the spleen does not function as well as it should. This could lead to an increased risk of complications if you have the flu1.

Your spleen plays a vital role in your immune system by clearing bacteria from your blood, and controlling your levels of white and red blood cells and platelets1. It also removes old or damaged red blood cells1. If this doesn’t happen, an infection such as flu can quickly develop into something more serious1,2. This is known as sepsis, a potentially fatal condition where the body attacks its own organs and tissue in reaction to an infection3.

If you catch flu, and you have no protection from a working spleen, you are also at an increased risk of developing complications such as a secondary lung infection or pneumonia4.

 

Protecting yourself from flu

The flu viruses circulate predominantly during winter. So you should think about how to help protect yourself as the flu season approaches.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid developing the flu5. The good news is that if you have asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS. This includes people who have sickle cell disease or coeliac disease, which can lead to dysfunction of the spleen6.

Get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter7.

 

Other ways to avoid infection

You can also take additional steps, such as avoiding public transport and crowds. However, if you’re unable to avoid public transport (for example, if you need to get to hospital for treatment or an appointment), wash your hands after every trip, use the antiseptic hand gel dispensers in the hospital regularly, cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and dispose of any used tissues as quickly as possible.

 

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. NHS Choices. Spleen problems and spleen removal. June 2016. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/spleen-problems-and-spleen-removal/ (accessed July 2018)
  2. NHS Choices. Causes of sepsis. February 2016. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sepsis/causes/ (accessed July 2018)
  3. The UK Sepsis Trust. What is Sepsis? Available online: https://sepsistrust.org/about/about-sepsis/ (accessed July 2018)
  4. Patient. Preventing Infection after Splenectomy. March 2018. Available online: http://patient.info/health/preventing-infection-after-splenectomy-or-if-you-do-not-have-a-working-spleen (accessed July 2018)
  5. 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)
  6. Public Health England. Immunisation against infectious disease: the green book. Chapter 19: Influenza, August 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_
    data/file/456568/2904394_Green_Book_Chapter_19_v10_0.pdf

    (accessed September 2018)
  7. 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