12 Mar 2015

Seasonal Influenza A H1N1: India

Influenza A (H1N1) - predominant influenza virus reported in India

As of 3 March 2015, the Government of India has reported increased seasonal influenza activity, with increased detections of influenza A H1N1 [1].

Seasonal Influenza

Influenza A H1N1, previously described as swine flu, is now considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a seasonal influenza subtype [2]. The influenza vaccine available in the UK for the 2014/15 flu season is effective against three types of influenza virus, including influenza A H1N1 [3]. In the UK, influenza immunisation has been recommended since the late 1960s, with the aim of directly protecting those in "at risk" groups who are at increased risk of influenza associated complications [4]. Department of Health recommendations for influenza vaccination are available here.

Advice for travellers

You are advised to take the following precautions to reduce the risk of exposure or spreading respiratory infections:

  • Avoid close contact with symptomatic individuals and crowded conditions.
  • Frequent hand washing.
  • Practise ‘cough hygiene’ - sneezing or coughing into a tissue and promptly discarding it safely, and frequent hand washing.
  • Avoid travel if unwell with influenza-like symptoms.
  • Influenza vaccine is not available as an NHS service to those who are not in an "at risk" group.  Travellers to India who are concerned could consider obtaining the vaccination privately.
 

Advice for health professionals

Influenza vaccine is not routinely recommended for travellers. Health professionals should carefully assess the risk of influenza for healthy travellers to tropical and sub-tropical regions at their destination and ensure that those considered at risk of severe disease if infected have received seasonal influenza vaccine as recommended for "at risk" groups [4].

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