Flu season approaches – are you ready?

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  Posted by: Dental Design      17th December 2022

Every year we’re faced with an illness that sweeps the nation – influenza. While we’ve pretty much adapted to flu season being a yearly occurrence, the last couple of years of the Coronavirus pandemic have had an impact on influenza rates and evolution. It’s always a good idea to have an overview of the virus and see what steps can be taken to defend your practice against transmission.

Flu in the time of a pandemic

There are fears that a wave of influenza is set to hit the UK this autumn, coinciding with another cold weather spike in Coronavirus cases and a wider spread of monkeypox. While this is currently anecdotal, experts have looked to Australia (who have already had their influenza season for 2022) – a period that has been recorded in the country as the worst flu season for five years.[1]

What could be fuelling this is our general lack of exposure to influenza over the last couple of years. Lockdowns, social distancing and other measures were effective in preventing the spread of flu, with general figures suggesting that prevalence of influenza was 95% lower than normal.[2] The UK also rolled out one of the biggest flu vaccination efforts in history last season, with over 35 million doses of the vaccine offered to people and a high proportion of uptake (82% of those aged over 65 took the vaccine).[3] 

So, now, as the pandemic dwindles, it’s difficult to know what this will mean for the flu season ahead. At the time of writing there are plans in place to roll out a similar vaccine programme to 2021, with doses being eligible for a significant portion of at-risk individuals,

including young children, the elderly, those in care homes and immunocompromised individuals.[4] However, whether the flu season will return to normal levels, or be particularly bad as it was in Australia, will depend on factors such as how the virus has evolved.

The ever-evolving threat

Seasonal strains of influenza infect 5-15% of the global population each year, resulting in 500,000 deaths worldwide.[5] In the UK, it is estimated that around 25,000 deaths are caused by influenza each year,[6] though the burden of the virus is also financial, with the average flu season costing the UK £128 million.[7] But why is influenza such a problem?

Influenza, much like other viruses, provides a persistent challenge to communities due to its ability to evolve in a relatively short period of time. How influenza achieves this is through a process called antigenic drift. In layman’s terms, antigenic drift is the evolutionary accumulation of amino acids from host bodies that occurs when a virus infects members of the population. As influenza self-replicates and spreads so quickly, the virus adapts quickly as well, picking up unique information from those it infects and evolving in rapid succession. If you examined a flu virus from a year ago you would find it very different from one found today, as it will have adapted to last year’s flu vaccine and also evolved new features after spreading through the population. Of course, there is not just one strain of flu spreading each year too, and across the world various strains are evolving and infecting populations at the same time, creating a chain of infection and viral evolution that is influenced by travel, societal mingling and more.

Ultimately, what antigenic drift means for us is that the virus can re-infect those who have already had it in the past, as well as become immune to any vaccinations developed to

defend against it. This is why it’s paramount that dental practices defend against the transmission of influenza as much as possible.

Top-quality defence that goes further

Defending against the spread of influenza can be achieved through high-quality infection control. Patients and staff should be encouraged to practice an exceptional standard of hand hygiene, and surfaces should be treated with appropriate products to help guarantee that surface transmission doesn’t occur.

Initial Medical offers dental practices a wide array of expert solutions that are effective against influenza. The Steri-7 Xtra range of surface disinfectants and hand preparation solutions are particularly recommended. Able to kill 99.9999% of pathogens including the influenza virus,* these solutions can be used across all surfaces and are delicate on equipment. The hand preparations contain a re-moisturising effect* so that they’re kind to skin. Plus, all Steri-7 Xtra  products have Reactive Barrier Technology – innovative protection that ensures pathogens can’t recolonise treated surfaces as long as the product isn’t wiped away.*

Better prepared

While we can’t feasibly predict how severe flu season will be this year, it’s always good to be prepared. By investing in high-quality cleaning solutions, you can help guarantee that your practice remains a safe place for all.


*Source: Steri-7 Xtra


For further information please visit www.initial.co.uk/medical or Tel: 0870 850 4045


Author: Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical

Rebecca has worked in the Healthcare sector for the past 17years and was a Research Chemist with Bayer Cropscience prior to joining Rentokil Initial in 2003.  She keeps up to date on all developments within the clinical waste management industry and is an active member of the CIWM, SMDSA and BDIA.  



About Initial Medical Waste 

Initial Medical set the standard in healthcare and infectious waste management in the UK, providing a reliable, effective and fully compliant service built around customer needs and delivered by our highly trained local teams.  We are ISO 9001:2015 accredited, with technology fully integrated into our operations, providing full traceability of service delivery, electronic waste documentation and the best customer experience possible. We also offer innovative healthcare waste management services and infection control products, to help break the chain of transmission and prevent cross contamination.  

Initial Medical are a company with a ‘World Class’ Health and Safety record, and ISO 45001:2018 accreditation. We are also accredited to ISO 14001:2015 environmental standards, and pride ourselves on our sustainable approach with a focus on delivering eco-friendly products and operational solutions.

For further information please visit www.initial.co.uk/medical or Tel: 0870 850 4045

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[1] Daily Express. Flu Warning: Huge ‘Influenza Wave’ To Hit The UK, and It’s Coming Early, Warns Expert. Link: https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/1633883/flu-symptoms-warning-influenza-wave-early-2022 [Last accessed August 22].

[2] The Guardian. Experts Assess The Threat To The NHS. Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/01/has-flu-fizzled-out-experts-assess-the-threat-to-nhs [Last accessed August 22].

[3] Gov.uk. National flu immunisation programme 2022 to 2023 letter. Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan/national-flu-immunisation-programme-2022-to-2023-letter [Last accessed August 22].

[4] Gov.uk. National flu immunisation programme 2022 to 2023 letter. Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan/national-flu-immunisation-programme-2022-to-2023-letter [Last accessed August 22].

[5] Petrova, V. et al. The Evolution of Seasonal Influenza Viruses. Nature Reviews Microbiology volume 16, pages 47–60 (2018).

[6] Office for National Statistics. Influenza Deaths in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Link:  https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/transparencyandgovernance/freedomofinformationfoi/influenzadeathsin20182019and2020 [Last accessed August 22].

[7] Moss, J. et al. Quantifying the direct secondary health care cost of seasonal influenza in England. BMC Public Health volume 20, Article number: 1464 (2020).

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