Lancashire residents urged to ‘be alert’ over Swine Flu

EXPOSURE: The H1N1 virus under the microscope
EXPOSURE: The H1N1 virus under the microscope

Residents are being urged not to panic about an outbreak of Swine Flu in Lancashire, despite rumours of people falling seriously ill.

Public Health England (PHE) said in recent weeks there has been an increase in the appearance of Type A (H1N1) flu - known as Swine Flu - across the county, but the more uncommon Tybe B strain was in decline.

Immunity wanes over time, the virus can evolve and there are other strains of influenza circulating which continue to make the flu vaccine the most important step in protecting vulnerable people against flu infection.

More than six years on from the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic, the H1N1 virus strain is now considered regular seasonal flu, which is covered by the annual seasonal flu vaccine.

An increase in hospital admissions associated with flu has been noted over the last two weeks nationally as levels of seasonal flu increase in line with other years, but PHE would not comment on patients in Lancashire becoming seriously ill. Instead, they said people should remain “alert, but not alarmed.”

A spokesman said: “Statistics in the North West as a whole indicate that this has been a typical flu season, and this year’s vaccination was a good match to the primary strains circulating.”

Prior to 2009 only people exposed to the H1N1 virus strains, circulating before a similar 1957 pandemic, were considered likely to have any degree of cross-protective immunity. But because H1N1 has been circulating in the population each flu season since 2009, the proportion of the population with some degree of immunity, either naturally acquired or through vaccination, has been rising.

The spokesman added: “Immunity wanes over time, the virus can evolve and there are other strains of influenza circulating which continue to make the flu vaccine the most important step in protecting vulnerable people against flu infection.”

The illness is most dangerous for those in “at-risk groups” such as pregnant women, young children, those aged over 65 and people with long-term health conditions.