Catch it, Bin it, Kill it

Published Thursday, 11th January 2018

Top doctors and nurses are urging the public to “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it” to prevent the spread of flu.

The latest Public Health England (PHE) statistics published today show that seasonal flu levels have continued to increase in the last week across the UK.

Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and hard surfaces for up to 24 hours, so members of the public are encouraged to “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it.”

It is very infectious, especially within the first five days, so the public are being encouraged to “Catch” any sneezes in a tissue, “Bin” any tissues immediately and “Kill” the virus by washing their hands with soap and warm water.

The campaign follows on from statistics last week up to 4 January which showed:

  • There was an 86% increase in people newly admitted to intensive care (ICU) with confirmed influenza from the previous week (114 compared to 61 the week before).
  • The 114 people admitted to ICU with flu, compares to 78 cases of confirmed flu in ICU this time in 2016/17 and 35 in 2015/16.
  • There was a four-fold increase in the rate of people admitted to hospital with confirmed flu since the previous week (4.82 per 100,000 compared to 2.33 per 100,000 before).

It is expected that cases of seasonal flu rise at this time of year and the scale of cases is nowhere near the level of 2009. Although most cases of flu are mild, or a short-lasting, unpleasant but self-limiting illness, in some instances flu can be deadly, particularly to vulnerable patients and it is important that we all take simple precautions to help reduce spread.

To help reduce circulation of flu, Professor Dame Sally Davies (England’s Chief Medical Officer), Professor Sir Bruce Keogh (NHSE Medical Director), Professor Paul Cosford (PHE Medical Director), Professor Jane Cummings (NHSE Chief Nursing Officer) and Professor Viv Bennett (PHE Head Nurse) have today written again to NHS staff urging those who remain unprotected to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

They have reminded healthcare workers of the key role they play “in protecting the health of the public” and that “we have a shared professional responsibility” to protect our patients.

Approximately 30% of flu infections may be asymptomatic and a similar proportion of infected people have only mild respiratory symptoms, so it can be easily passed on to vulnerable individuals that staff come into contact with. The letter says “this is why vaccination of healthcare workers is a critical part of our flu prevention strategy and helps to ensure the well-being of our most vulnerable patients.”

The latest data up to the end of November shows 59.3% of frontline healthcare workers were vaccinated compared to 55.6% at the same period last year. However, there is significant variation with some trusts having rates of 80% but some as low as 23%.

A recent publication suggested that a 10% increase in staff vaccination reduces sickness absence by about 10% during flu active periods.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer said:

“Flu can kill and it is important we all take it seriously.

“The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get the flu jab. If you are suffering from flu-like symptoms you should catch your coughs or sneezes in tissues, bin the tissue immediately, and wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water.”

Professor Paul Cosford, Public Health England Medical Director said:

“Our data shows that more people are visiting GPs with flu symptoms and we are seeing more people admitted to hospitals with the flu. We are currently seeing a mix of flu types, including the A(H3N2) strain that circulated last winter in the UK and then in Australia. All vaccines offer cover against this strain of flu and so we urge people to take up the offer of the vaccine.”

Flu symptoms include:
  • fever (temperature above 38C)
  • aches
  • tiredness or exhaustion
  • dry, chesty cough
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • tummy pain or diarrhoea
  • nausea and being sick

The public should remain at home and rest if their symptoms are severe.