Influenza activity has dramatically increased, especially in the United Kingdom, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The UK has reports of severely affected patients infected with the B virus and A (H1N12)2009 swine flu – and 27 reports of deaths. The ECDC adds that none of the deaths so far had been vaccinated against the 2009 pandemic virus or received this year’s influenza vaccine.

The ECDC urges all European citizens to adopt preventative measures recommended by their health departments, which usually include personal hygiene measures and vaccinations for certain groups of people.

The ECDC stresses that by far the most effective preventative measure is vaccination – if you identify yourself as the type of person recommended to have the flu jab, you should do so as soon as possible, said Marc Sprenger, ECDC Director.

Springer wrote in a communiqué:

    “Virological analysis show that the 2010 trivalent seasonal influenza vaccines will protect against this season’s influenza viruses.”

Although we will not know for a while how many people are immunized in Europe, the ECDC says rates are varying tremendously, from almost 80% to less than 10% among older individuals, while in some risk groups, such as pregnant women, the percentage is lower still.

The ECDC accepts that many Europeans are concerned about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines.

In a press statement, the ECDC wrote:

    “The scientific evidence shows that seasonal influenza vaccines are effective and very safe. They provide a protection of up to 80% against influenza on an individual basis. ECDC will continue to work closely with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – which is the EU agency responsible for the regulation of medicines at European level, including vaccines – to ensure that the relevant information on safety and effectiveness is readily available to all who want or need it.”

According to the Health Protection Agency, UK, nearly 2,000 more people died (of all causes) in the week up to December 13th than during the previous week – the rise was said to be due to severe weather conditions and respiratory illnesses (including flu).

Health authorities throughout the United Kingdom are reporting a considerable increase in flu activity.

Twenty-seven people have died from flu in the UK so far this season; ten of those deaths occured over the last week.

Most of the British media, including the BBC, are talking about a looming epidemic. With influenza numbers rising rapidly in the rest of Europe, Canada and the USA, warnings are beginning to appear about a global flu epidemic.

Younger people are particularly vulnerable to swine flu complications, mainly because older individuals have some immunity due to exposure to a similar strain long ago.

87.1 per 100,000 British people are visiting their doctor with flu-like symptoms this week; double the number compared to the previous week.

Sources: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, HPA

Written by Christian Nordqvist