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COVID-19: Flu exacerbates virus, research suggests

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Flu has been linked to increased risk Flu has been linked to increased risk

People infected with both influenza and COVID-19 between January and April were more at risk of severe illness and death, new Public Health England research suggests.

The research, looking at cases between January and April this year, also found that those with co-infection of the two viruses were more at risk of severe illness. Most cases of co-infection were in older people and more than half of them died.

‘It is dangerous to dismiss influenza as ‘just’ the flu – it can be extremely serious and can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death,’ said Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England.

‘The flu vaccine is more important than ever, to help reduce transmission of flu and protect the nation from the double threat of flu and COVID-19. You may be offered it for the first time this year – it is important that you take up the offer to protect yourself and others.’

The NHS is working to provide the free flu vaccine to 30 million people, the highest number on record. All primary school children and, for the first time, Year 7 children will be offered the flu ‘nasal spray’ in schools to reduce community transmission. Two- and three-year-olds will be offered the vaccine through their GP. The most vulnerable, including adults aged 65 and over, those with long-term health conditions and pregnant women, will be offered the flu vaccine first through their GP or pharmacy.

‘Flu can be deadly and it is easily spread in children and adults. The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from becoming ill with the flu, especially if you are in a vulnerable group,’ said Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.

‘This winter with COVID still circulating, and the increased risk to life if you are ill with both viruses simultaneously, it is even more vital to get the free jab as soon as you can.’

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