Healthcare Professionals

This section is intended for healthcare professionals and associated healthcare employees in the UK only – this includes GPs, nurses, practice managers, GP practice administration support, pharmacists and pharmacy counter assistants.

If you are not a healthcare professional or healthcare employee, you should not enter this section – information regarding flu can be found on the main website.

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Flu Risks With Asplenia And Dysfunction Of The Spleen

Asplenia refers to someone who has had his or her spleen removed, or who has a spleen that doesn’t function well. 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 and it is potentially fatal as it can quickly lead to multiple organ failure and/or blood poisoning3.

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 early – from October to early November – to  ensure you’re protected right through the winter

 

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 flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy. Most pharmacies in the UK now offer both the NHS free flu jab as well as a private jab. This might be a more convenient option for you. Enter your postcode in the search box above to find your nearest local flu clinic.

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

 

References

1. NHS. Spleen problems and spleen removal. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/spleen-disorders-splenectomy/Pages/Introduction.aspx (accessed July 2017)

2. NHS. Causes of sepsis. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Blood-poisoning/Pages/Causes.aspx (accessed July 2017)

3. The UK Sepsis Trust. What is Sepsis? http://sepsistrust.org/public/what-is-sepsis/ (accessed July 2017)

4. Patient. Preventing Infection after Splenectomy or if you do not have a Working Spleen. http://patient.info/health/preventing-infection-after-splenectomy-or-if-you-do-not-have-a-working-spleen (accessed July 2017)

5. World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet No. 211, November 2016. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html (accessed July 2017)

6. Public Health England. The Geen Book. Chapter 19. Influenza. August 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file
/456568/2904394_Green_Book_Chapter_19_v10_0.pdf 
(accessed July 2017)

Adverse Event Reporting

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