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Flu warning: Experts warn of UK's worst epidemic for almost 50 years

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  • Flu warning: Experts warn of UK's worst epidemic for almost 50 years


    Flu warning: Experts warn of UK's worst epidemic for almost 50 years
    BRITAIN faces the worst flu outbreak for almost 50 years and public health officials must take urgent steps to protect the public, experts have said.
    By Lucy Johnston and Adam Helliker, Exclusive
    PUBLISHED: 00:01, Sun, Sep 24, 2017

    The warning comes as Australia is in the grip of its worst season on record with more than 70,000 cases of flu and standing room only in some Accident and Emergency departments.

    Specialists say this strain is likely to hit our shores this winter as global travel means the virus will ?almost inevitably? be carried across.

    Professor Robert Dingwall, a public health expert at Nottingham Trent University said the outbreak presents the most serious challenge since the 1968 flu pandemic which originated in Hong Kong and killed a million people worldwide.

    Scientists are concerned about ?virological drift? where flu evolves so that even if a vaccine works in one country, it may not be effective months later.

    Prof Dingwall said: ?Based on the Australian experience public health officials need to meet and urgently review emergency planning procedures. Public Health England should be working with local authorities and local health services to ensure more hospital beds are freed up. We need to be prepared, alert and flexible.

    ?There is no point in trying to close the borders. It?s almost inevitable this will come to us. This is potentially the worst winter since the Hong Kong flu outbreak of 1968. Lots of people have been very badly affected in Australia and whilst their mortality rates are not out yet we suspect this is a more severe strain than most other years.?

    The warning follows a speech earlier this month from NHS chief Simon Stevens who said the NHS may not be able to cope with the pressure...

  • #2
    Thanks for this Shiloh x


    • #3
      Ming this seems a little alarmist. Compare it to this from Cidrap four days earlier.
      WHO: high flu activity continues in Australia, parts of Asia

      High flu activity continues in several parts of the world, especially in Australia, as well as some countries in southern Asia and southeast Asia, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest global flu update.
      In Australia, the national flu levels seem to have plateaued but intensity varies by region, with H3N2 as the predominant strain, followed by influenza B. Overall, this season's activity has been similar to or slightly greater than past seasons. New Zealand's flu markers continued to decline, with the country reporting a low intensity season compared to past years. In South Africa, which is having a moderate flu season, the disease has likely plateaued, with influenza B predominating over H3N2 in recent weeks.
      Whether we pick the right strain for the vaccine is always a bit of a lottery and there is always a small chance of an antigenically significant SNP. Given the choice of Cidrap or the Express (or any of our other mass media) getting a flu story right I would have to go with Cidrap.

      The article gives no indication of changes and seasonal variablity, by area, may be caused by the predominance of a strain that has not caused a problem, in that area, for a few years. This would be the case if H3N2 predominated after a few years of H1N1 or an unrelated H3N2. That balance may not have been the same in other locals.

      The NHS surge capacity problem is seperate and a result of a demand/funding imbalance over a long period. I may be wrong we will find out this winter but at some time in the future we will badly need that surge capacity and sadly miss it.
      Last edited by JJackson; September 25, 2017, 01:48 PM.


      • #4
        Yep, the Prof in the Express article is probably just keeping himself right, so if things go to custard he can say "I warned you this was going to happen". It's quite sensationalist isn't it.


        • #5
          More information provided in this article - they wrote the piece on the basis of a conference presentation at NHS Expo.


          • #6
            Further information also reported here re: flu situation in Australia at the moment. From Victoria: From Sydney: Looks like we may be in for a bad year, but more information is needed. It is unusual that the Australian flu season has not yet peaked - should have been and gone by now.


            • #7
              Sorry about the formatting - having some trouble with posting, and cannot edit my posts? There are two links from Victoria, the second gives more statistics.


              • #8
                Much more data of use in this article from Au. It would appear this is concentrated (for now) up the Eastern seaboard.


                • #9
                  Age groups most hard hit seem odd to me - is it normal for the over 80s and under 9s to be hit this way with flu? Apologies if a silly question, I am not a medical person


                  • #10
                    I am going to stick by earlier comment for the time being. From thenewdaily article I would firstly note that there is no evidence of genetic change in fact they said the vaccine was a fairly good match, there is also no evidence of increased virulence (hospitalisation rates/infection are down on previous years) but there have been more cases. I would also take issue with H3N2 being a fast mutating flu it has been around since 1968 and vaccine changes have been need every 3 or 4 years (see ) for more detail - this does not seem odd. The main problem is that it is so much older than H1N1(2009) it has had far more opportunity to branch out genetically and there are so many distinct strains guessing which strain will predominate in any given year is far more challenging.
                    Re Ming's question. I think 95% of flu deaths occur in the over 65s is the grenerally accepted rule of thumb. H3N2 has a reputation for being particularly hard on the elderly and a recent study showed a good correlation with not just age but increasing frailty. H1N1(2009) is the seasonal flu which has shown the worrying trait of not just killing the elderly, with poor immune systems, but some healthy young adults who would normally be the most able to shrug off infections. The problem for the young is they have had less years to meet flu, of any type, and consequently to have any relevant antibodies - even poor matches. The very young, in addition, are still developing their immune system and 'trainning' it as to what should be viewed as a threat which makes them less able to cope with all infections, not just flu.
                    Like you Ming I lay no claim to any specialist knowledge just what I have learnt here over a decade of paying attention.


                    • #11
                      Thanks JJ - I never used to pay any attention to flu, but I've recently become "elderly" and now I do - I had HongKong flu in 68 and still remember how ill I was.