Authorities in Milton Keynes on alert for deadly Australian flu

A flu jab
A flu jab

Health experts have been put on flu alert ahead of the coming winter as a deadly outbreak in Australia has already claimed the lives of more than 140 people.

While not saying that the experts are concerned about an ‘epidemic’ of deadly influenza, Muriel Scott, the director of public health at Milton Keynes Council said they are starting to promote the need for vaccinations.

Wednesday’s meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board at Milton Keynes Council was hearing an update on how far short the city is from various vaccination targets. Only 72.7 per cent of over 65s in MK last year received their flu jabs, falling short of the 75 per cent target.

Muriel Scott said: “We will start promoting the flu vaccination now for when the vaccinations start being given in September. We will get everything in place to maximise vaccinations because of what we are hearing from Australia.”

A report on the Health Service Journal website says there have been some 94,000 confirmed cases of flu so far this year, far above the levels seen in previous years.

More than 147 people have died from the flu in Australia in the first five months of the year, compared with 23 at the same point in 2018. The normally busy months for flu in Australia are July and August.

When it comes to other vaccinations, the Board was told that action is being taken to encourage pre-school booster immunisation uptake.

Cath Fenton, the screening and immunisation lead, said the pre-school booster vaccination (PSB) is given at around 3 years and 4 months to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio.

However, uptake of the booster has been recorded at just 76 per cent in Milton Keynes, 79 per cent in Luton, 86 per cent in Herts Valleys, 92 per cent in Bedfordshire and 92 per cent in East and North Hertfordshire.

The board heard that the figures in Milton Keynes may be unreliable because MMR immunisation rates are much higher at 91 per cent.

It would be unusual for GPs to give one jab and not the other, but nevertheless, health chiefs want to get immunisation up to 95 per cent which gives “herd immunity” to the entire population.

The Health and Wellbeing Board also heard that there is no evidence of anti-vaccination messages on social media being believed or followed in Milton Keynes.

“Most people do not trust what they see on social media,” said Cath Fenton. “The messages we provide are accepted by most parents.”