Seasonal strains of influenza infect 5-15% of the global population each year, resulting in 500,000 deaths worldwide.1 In the UK, it is estimated that around 25,000 deaths are caused by influenza every year,2 though the burden of the virus is also financial, with the average flu season costing the UK £128 million.3
There are fears that a bad wave of influenza is set to hit the UK this autumn. While this is currently anecdotal, experts have looked to Australia (which has already had its influenza season for 2022) – a period that has been recorded in the country as the worst flu season for five years.4 But why is influenza such a threat?
The challenges of flu season
Influenza, much like other viruses, provides a persistent challenge to communities due to its ability to evolve in a relatively short period of time. How influenza achieves this is through a process called antigenic drift.
In layman’s terms, antigenic drift is the evolutionary accumulation of amino acids from host bodies that occurs when a virus infects members of the population. As influenza self-replicates and spreads so quickly, the virus adapts quickly as well. It picks up unique information from those it infects and evolves in rapid succession.
If you examined a flu virus from a year ago you would find it very different from one found today, as it will have adapted to last year’s flu vaccine and also evolved new features after spreading through the population.
Ultimately, what antigenic drift means for us is that the virus can re-infect those who have already had it in the past, as well as become immune to any vaccinations developed to defend against it. This is why it’s paramount that healthcare environments defend against the transmission of influenza as much as possible.
Top-quality defence that goes further
Defending against the spread of influenza can be achieved through high-quality infection control. Colleagues, residents, patients and visitors to your premises, should be encouraged to practice an exceptional standard of hand hygiene, and surfaces should be treated with appropriate products to help guarantee that surface transmission doesn’t occur.
Initial Medical offers a wide array of expert solutions that are effective against influenza. The Steri-7 Xtra range of surface disinfectants and hand preparation solutions are particularly recommended. Able to kill 99.9999% of pathogens including the influenza virus,* these solutions can be used across all surfaces and are delicate on equipment. The hand preparations contain a re-moisturising effect* so that they are kind to the skin.
Plus, all Steri-7 Xtra products have Reactive Barrier Technology – innovative protection that ensures pathogens can’t recolonise treated surfaces as long as the product isn’t wiped away.*
While we can’t feasibly predict how severe flu season will be this year, it’s always good to be prepared. By investing in high-quality cleaning solutions, you can help guarantee that your practice remains a safe place for all.
*Source: Steri-7 Xtra
1 Petrova, V. et al. The Evolution of Seasonal Influenza Viruses. Nature Reviews Microbiology volume 16, pages 47–60 (2018).
2 Office for National Statistics. Influenza Deaths in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Link: https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/transparencyandgovernance/freedomofinformationfoi/influenzadeathsin20182019and2020 [Last accessed August 22].
3 Moss, J. et al. Quantifying the direct secondary health care cost of seasonal influenza in England. BMC Public Health volume 20, Article number: 1464 (2020).
4 Daily Express. Flu Warning: Huge ‘Influenza Wave’ To Hit The UK, and It’s Coming Early, Warns Expert. Link: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/1633883/flu-symptoms-warning-influenza-wave-early-2022 [Last accessed August 22].