It is the cold and flu season
Vaccination shortages for the marked increase in flu symptoms across the UK have been slammed by a Foyle MLA.
The comments of the SDLP's Mark H Durkan echo warnings from health officials.
Mr Durkan, his party's health spokesperson, said the latest influenza surveillance statistics were “shocking to say the least but not surprising.”
He added: “The North has experienced the highest rates of flu-like symptoms, in particular symptoms in five-14 year olds are at 41.1% per 100,000 significantly higher than this time last year.
“The rise, is no doubt owed to vaccination shortages and compounded by the fact that ‘flu season’ has started earlier this year. To put it simply public health has been put at risk as a direct consequence of failures at the hands of manufacturers.
“Last month, I wrote to the Public Health Agency following the cancellation of primary school vaccinations throughout the North. The shortage has also been raised by the party at a local level.
“Disappointingly Trusts have been forced to delay these school clinics until early January. Alongside the elderly, children are among a demographic at greatest risk of flu complications. It is therefore extremely concerning that vaccinations for this group has been postponed.
“Flu has circulated earlier than usual and I have been advised by health officials that it is likely to continue until the end of March 2020. We are currently bordering on the high risk bracket and I worry we are on the brink of a flu epidemic if supply issues are not resolved as soon as possible.”
Mr Durkan added: “In the interim, the PHA has urged all eligible people to get vaccinated when invited. Children at higher risk of flu, such as those with underlying health con- ditions, are being prioritised and can be offered the vaccination by their GP.
“If a parent feels that their child is in a clinical at risk group they should speak to their GP for further advice.
“People should also be mindful that infection can easily spread and be picked up on surfaces such as door handles.
“To reduce chances of getting the flu virus I encourage people to sneeze into a tissue, put dirty tissues in the bin quickly and to wash their hands frequently. Hard surfaces should also be cleaned frequently to help prevent the transmission of flu from person to person.”
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