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Influenza is a viral infection which attacks the respiratory system.

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Introduction

´╗┐Influenza in the UKBiology AS Issue Report Influenza in the UK The Influenza problem According to the UK department of health, ?In the UK, about 600 people a year die from seasonal flu. This rises to around 13,000 during an epidemic.? (1) This is a problem that biologists have been and will continue to try and solve, keeping this number as low as possible will save lives. Influenza is a viral infection which attacks the respiratory system. For healthy people it means a week or two off work with the sudden onset of a fever, headache, cough, sore throat and muscle aches. After about a week these will disappear but you will be left extreme fatigues for a few weeks after you catch the infection. (2) If you are fit and healthy this shouldn?t cause much of a problem. However the problems occur if you have a weakened immune system. This means you are less likely to be able to fight against the virus so you are more vulnerable to catching the virus and its complications, the most likely of which is a bacterial chest infection. This can result in serious illness such as pneumonia which can result in death. (3) The solution Currently in the UK a vaccination against influenza is given free of charge to everyone who is in a high risk group. The National Health Service (4) says that this includes all those who are; aged 65 and over, pregnant, suffering with a serious medical condition, living in a residential home or are healthcare workers or carers for the sick or elderly. ...read more.

Middle

Finally the statement says that “Where information is available on the fatal cases, 240 out of 338 (71%) were in a clinical 'at risk' group for vaccination.” (8) As the majority of these deaths are of people in the high risk groups it hints that the vaccination is being given to the correct group of people. This evidence on the high effectiveness of the scheme portrays how the solution is appropriate. Implications of the solution Vaccinating such a large percentage of the population for free has a huge economic cost. This is increased when there is a pandemic and emergency vaccinations are given. For example BBC News (9) recently revealed that the department of health spent £239 million on swine flu vaccines. As the strains on the virus are always changing and a new vaccine has to be made every year, the cost of the seasonal influenza vaccinations has to be repeated each year. This is money that could be spent elsewhere in the heath service which is currently undergoing large financial cuts like much of the UK. According to BBC news “More than 50,000 NHS jobs will be lost across the UK over the next five years”. (10) It is likely that the cost of the vaccination is balanced out by the money saved by the National Health Service in having to treat the much greater number of influenza cases that would occur if there was no vaccine. However the cost would be dramatically reduced if the vaccination didn’t have to be repeated each year. ...read more.

Conclusion

This would dramatically reduce the costs of repeating the vaccination scheme yearly and make it a lot more effective. It would also stop flu pandemics which can cause many deaths. Another alternative to an influenza vaccine is antiviral drugs. These ?work by preventing the flu virus from reproducing - to be effective you need to take them within 48 hours of the symptoms beginning. This can reduce the risk of complications and possibly shorten the illness by a day.? (14) This is a good alternative for people who cannot or refuse to have a vaccination for any reason. Tamiflu is the trade name for the drug oseltamivir which was an antiviral drug used to treat the recent swine flu outbreak, it stopped the virus reproducing but caused side effects including; nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach ache and headache according to Yougov. (14) The official website for Tamiflu (15) states that there is a 30% reduction in the duration of the illness if the drug is taken. This figure was derived from a clinical trial that took place in 1998, it compared the duration of the illness in 629 unimmunised adults who had taken either Tamiflu or a placebo. The results are illustrated in figure 5. Conclusion Influenza is a common but serious illness in the UK. The current scheme to vaccinate the people at high risk of contracting the virus is working well however the vaccine has to changed each year due to differing strains of the virus. However a new vaccination is currently in development which will provide immunity from all strains of the influenza virus. ...read more.

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