UK warns of tough flu season as COVID cases also rise – POLITICO

British public health experts are warning that the flu could pose a serious health threat this winter, with population immunity at an all-time low and people weary of getting vaccinated after the pandemic.

Experts predict that the strain of flu seen in Australia last winter, known as H3N2, could also spread to the northern hemisphere.

« The H3N2 flu strain can cause particularly serious illness, » said Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency.

In an average winter without pandemic restrictions, around 11,000 people in the UK die from the flu.

This winter, immunity levels are falling after consecutive seasons of low flu infections. Additionally, health experts are concerned that people will grow weary of multiple vaccinations, due to the pandemic, and fewer will get their flu shots.

The UKHSA is particularly concerned about pregnant women and toddlers, most of whom will never have come into contact with the virus.

Last year, only half of eligible children aged 2 and 3 received a flu shot, and less than 38% of pregnant women. These rates contrast with record flu vaccine uptake among people aged 65 and over last year, at more than 82%.

Additionally, the variants of COVID-19 continue to evolve. Health experts are urging people over 50 and vulnerable people to come forward for their booster shots, as well as their flu shots, which can be given together. The UK offers boosters that target the first Omicron strain and the Wuhan strain.

« Influenza and COVID-19 are unpredictable, but there are strong indications that we may face the threat of widespread influenza, with lower levels of natural immunity due to less exposure. over the past three winters and an increase in circulating COVID-19 with many variants that can evade the immune response,” Hopkins said.

« This combination poses a serious risk to our health, especially those in high-risk groups, » he added.

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