Scotland's CMO seeks to calm flu fears

Scotland's CMO has moved to address fears over the current flu outbreak as children head back to school, saying parents should 'be alert, not alarmed'.

Parents should be alert, not alarmed about flu this winter (Photograph: Istock)
Parents should be alert, not alarmed about flu this winter (Photograph: Istock)

Dr Harry Burns, Scotland’s CMO, said the country was experiencing a ‘normal seasonal flu outbreak’ and that there was no need for alarm.

He said parents should encourage children to follow basic hygiene steps to avoid catching flu and urged parents to have any at-risk children vaccinated.

Dr Burns said: ‘As parents prepare for their children returning to school after the festive break, I want to encourage them to be alert, not alarmed about flu this winter.

‘There is no need for alarm, but parents should remain vigilant.’

Last week, Health Protection Scotland reported there have been 12 laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu in Scotland in the previous seven days. There have been 23 admissions to intensive care units in Scotland with severe infection and four patients have died, all of whom suffered from swine flu.

GP consultations in Scotland rose to 55.8 per 100,000 last week, but this remains in line with normal seasonal influenza activity.

By mid-December, uptake of vaccination among pregnant women not in an at-risk group was just 27.2%, while uptake among those at-risk aged under 65 was 48.4%.

Dr Burns added: ‘Vaccination is the most important way for those at greater risk to protect themselves from flu, so parents should ensure that if they or their children are in an at risk group they have taken up the offer of flu vaccination.

'It is also important that children understand the importance of covering their mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, putting the tissue in the bin and then thoroughly washing their hands.'

He concluded: ‘Seasonal flu will cause mild illness that can safely be managed at home for the vast majority of patients. If parents are worried about their child's flu, they should contact their GP, their out of hours service, or NHS 24.'

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