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Health Protection Agency to monitor flu virus

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The Health Protection Agency has this week resumed its national surveillance of the flu virus for the winter season.

Between October 2008 and May 2009, all reported flu activity across the UK will be monitored by the agency to identify periods where the virus is circulating in the community.

The HPA will use the information to decide if and when to recommend that the Department of Health initiate the use of antiviral drugs.

Professor John Watson, deputy head of the agency’s respiratory and systemic infections department, said: ‘The flu virus is unpredictable and it is essential that we remain vigilant and continue to monitor flu activity week by week throughout the season.

‘By doing this we can assess how levels are changing, ascertain which viruses are circulating and issue warnings if levels of activity begin to increase significantly.’

The DH’s flu immunisation programme recommends that all healthcare workers, those aged over 65 and those considered high-risk should be vaccinated.

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