News story

PHE confirms flu is now circulating

The Chief Medical Officer has advised antivirals drugs may now be used for treatment of flu.


Latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) indicate flu is now circulating in the community, with increases seen for several indicators in particular influenza confirmed hospitalisations amongst younger adults.

Based on this advice, the Department of Health (DH) is issuing guidance on the use of antiviral drugs in primary care for the management of people presenting with flu-like illness in England who are at higher risk of developing complications from flu.

Virus surveillance from the UK and elsewhere in Europe shows the strain A(H1N1)pdm09 is now the main seasonal flu virus.

The viruses characterised so far this season are well-matched to the vaccine strain.

Previous flu seasons dominated by A(H1N1)pdm09 suggest this strain particularly affects children, pregnant women, and adults with long term conditions like chronic heart disease, liver disease, neurological disease and respiratory disease in particular.

Antivirals are recommended by a number of organisations including NICE, PHE, WHO and ECDC for the treatment and prophylaxis of influenza.

PHE recommends the targeted use of antivirals for the treatment and prophylaxis of individuals at higher risk of the severe consequences of seasonal influenza.

Dr Richard Pebody, flu expert for PHE said:

For most people influenza infection is just a nasty experience, but for some it can lead to illnesses that are more serious, including bronchitis and secondary bacterial pneumonia, which can be life threatening.

It’s not too late for children and people in ‘at risk’ groups to get the vaccine for free, and this remains important now that flu is circulating. This includes people with underlying health conditions, even those that are well managed, such as asthma, diabetes, heart, lung, liver or renal diseases, those with weakened immune systems, as well as older people and pregnant women. Anyone in these groups who hasn’t yet had the vaccine should contact their GP, pharmacist or midwife, as they are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu, and sadly many end up in hospital.

Remember that maintaining good cough and hand hygiene can help prevent the spread of germs and reduce the risk of transmission for flu. This includes covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue and cleaning your hands as soon you can.

Published 8 January 2016