More young children in hospital with flu in Greater Manchester - advice on protecting kids and flu vaccines

We spoke to Dr Helen Wall about the latest flu virus going around, why hospitalisations are on the rise in Greater Manchester this winter, and what to do to prevent your family getting ill with flu.
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Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust had more flu patients on wards than any other hospital in England at the end of December - and a health boss has highlighted a particular spike in young children and the elderly population.

On average, there were 185 people in hospital with flu at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust hospitals in the week before Christmas, according to data from NHS England. GP and Clinical Director of Population Health in Greater Manchester, Dr Helen Wall, told us there are now around 300 flu in-patients across Greater Manchester hospitals, and a significant number of those patients were very young children aged under five, and elderly people aged over 85.

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Dr Wall added, with 98% of hospital beds currently occupied across Greater Manchester, there is considerable pressure being placed on the healthcare system. Dr Wall said that in the winter of 2017-18, there were also high flu numbers - but this winter there are more than double the number of people ending up in hospital with it. She said the end of social distancing and a lower vaccine uptake, along with the impact of areas with high social deprivation, had played a part in higher flu rates this winter.

She said: “Rates of flu are definitely higher than we’ve seen for some time. Young children are getting quite sick with flu and ending up in hospital and unfortunately sometimes in critical care. We’ve got a reduction in the number of children being vaccinated. Flu can be quite serious but there is something we can do about it and get vaccinated.”

She’s also advised people with flu symptoms to keep away from others especially vulnerable people as much as possible, to wear a mask to protect others if you can’t stay at home, and for those who are eligible to get vaccinated. Typical flu symptoms include a sudden high temperature, aches and pains, tiredness, sore throat and headaches.

Book a flu vaccine near me - where to get one in Manchester

The number of people getting vaccinated in Greater Manchester is lower than previous years, which Dr Wall says may be due to people being tired of hearing about vaccines and a lack of conversation surrounding the topic. In Manchester, UK Health Security Agency figures show 65% of those aged 65+ have been vaccinated by 30 November 2022, but less than 24% of pregnant women and only 26.5% of two and three year olds.

  • For advice on booking a flu vaccine, see Manchester city council’s website here. The flu jab is offered free on the NHS to anyone over 50, anyone with with a serious long-term health condition, or pregnant women and young children, but many pharmacies can provide a jab to anyone who wants one for a small charge. To check eligible pharmacies, see the NHS website here. Children aged 2-3 can only be vaccinated at their GP practice. School immunisation teams have already taken the flu vaccine out to primary schools and are currently visiting secondary schools across the region to offer the vaccine to children in years 7 to 9.