GPs told to consider antivirals as flu consultations spike

GPs can now prescribe antivirals for the prophylaxis and treatment of influenza on the NHS, the DH has announced, as the latest surveillance figures from Public Health England (PHE) indicate that flu is now circulating in the community.

The DH said the increase in flu activity means there is now a ‘substantial likelihood’ that people presenting with influenza-like symptoms are indeed infected with the virus.

The announcement comes after PHE noticed significant increases in several key flu indicators – most notably the number of confirmed hospitalisations in young adults.

Surveillance data from the UK and Europe point to the strain A(H1N1)pdm09 being the main seasonal virus – which PHE confirmed is well-matched to the strain used in this year’s vaccine.

This follows from last year, when the dominant strain drifted so significantly from the strain in the vaccine that just 3% of patients received protection from it.

Antivirals

Evidence from previous flu seasons that have been dominated by the same A(H1N1)pdm09 strains suggests that GPs should particularly watch out for children, pregnant women, and adults with long-term conditions being affected.

In a letter to healthcare professionals, CMO Professor Dame Sally Davies said GPs should consider antiviral treatment for patients who may be ‘at risk of severe illness and/or complications from influenza if not treated’, as per NICE guidelines, regardless of whether they are part of an ‘at risk’ group.

Liquid forms of antivirals should only be prescribed to children under the age of one, she said. All other patients should be given capsules to ensure a continuity of supplies to this vulnerable age group. Children over the age of one and adults who cannot swallow capsules should be advised to empty the contents of their capsules into a sugary diluent.

Influenza

‘The increase in flu activity also highlights the need to ensure maximum protection through vaccination,’ Dame Sally said. ‘Please encourage as many people in the "at risk" qualifying groups to get the flu vaccination.

‘It is also important that frontline healthcare workers, including GPs, nurses, pharmacists, and their teams, minimise the risk of transmitting flu by getting vaccinated themselves and observing strict infection control measures.

‘This season, 44% of healthcare workers have been vaccinated up to end of November 2015. Please vaccinate yourself as this will help protect those in your care, as well as you and your family.’

Dr Richard Pebody, flu expert for PHE said: ‘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.’

Photo: iStock

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

GPs unlikely to begin COVID-19 vaccination for 'at least two weeks', says BMA

GPs unlikely to begin COVID-19 vaccination for 'at least two weeks', says BMA

GP practices are unlikely to receive stocks of COVID-19 vaccine 'for at least another...

JCVI confirms priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination

JCVI confirms priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published a final...

MHRA approves Pfizer/BioNTech jab paving way for COVID-19 vaccination to start

MHRA approves Pfizer/BioNTech jab paving way for COVID-19 vaccination to start

The MHRA has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in the UK and...

Enhanced service contract for GP practices delivering COVID-19 vaccine revealed

Enhanced service contract for GP practices delivering COVID-19 vaccine revealed

GP practices have until midnight on 7 December to sign up to a COVID-19 enhanced...

Five GP practices a week inspected by CQC during pandemic second wave

Five GP practices a week inspected by CQC during pandemic second wave

The CQC has inspected five GP practices a week in England since the second wave of...

Pregnant women and under-18s will not be offered COVID-19 vaccine

Pregnant women and under-18s will not be offered COVID-19 vaccine

Pregnant women, children and under-18s will not be recommended for routine COVID-19...