Leading health bodies are urging increased uptake of the flu vaccine from at risk groups, including all two and three year olds, this winter.
A study published this week by Public Health England (PHE) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that children are “key spreaders” of the flu virus.
A national advertising campaign is being launched by PHE to encourage parents of two to three year old children, as well as people aged 65 and over and adults and children with long term health conditions and pregnant women, to take up the vaccination.
Almost 800 people were admitted to intensive care with flu complications last year and each year tens of thousands of people are hospitalised because of flu.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: "Severe winter flu and its complications can make people really ill and can kill – you are eleven times more likely to die from flu if you are in a clinical at risk group.
“This year we are offering healthy two and three year olds a nasal spray vaccine to not only protect healthy children from flu, but to help to reduce the spread of flu and protect others, including younger brothers and sisters, grandparents and those who are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from flu.”
Dr Paul Cosford, medical director and director for Health Protection at PHE, said: “For the majority of people, flu is an unpleasant, but not life-threatening illness. But it can be very serious for older people and those groups at risk of developing complications including people with weakened immune systems, as well as those with underlying conditions such as neurological disorders, liver, lung or renal disease, heart problems or diabetes, and pregnant women. Vaccination remains the best way to protect against the potential serious harm from flu this winter.”