From Featuring Dr Chris Steele MBE

Travelling to the World Cup?

Fans urged to get swine flu vaccine

Football fans travelling to the World Cup in South Africa this June are being offered the swine flu vaccine.

Previously the vaccine was available in the UK to people in high risk groups - front line staff, pregnant women, those with chronic illnesses and children between the ages of six months and five years.

With the flu season in the Southern Hemisphere about to start again soon, the swine flu vaccine will be available to all travellers to countries in this region.

Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England, said: “The next flu season in the Southern Hemisphere will be starting soon and the pandemic flu virus is expected to return.

"Travellers should protect themselves by getting the vaccine well before they travel. Those attending the World Cup in South Africa in June should also take advantage of the protection the vaccine can offer.”

Over 450,000 football fans are expected to travel from across the world to South Africa for the month long football tournament during the South African winter. The crowded football stadiums will make it easier for the virus to spread between fans.

As well as protecting fans from infection, vaccination will also reduce the risk of visitors bringing the H1N1 virus back into the UK on their return.

It is now highly likely the pandemic strain of the H1N1 flu virus will be the cause of most of the UK's seasonal flu in the future.

Most of the illness caused by the swine flu virus during the 2009/2010 flu season has been relatively mild. However, the H1N1 virus can cause serious illness and death, especially in people in the high risk groups.

Although the UK flu season is coming to an end, in England 65 people are currently in hospital due to swine flu, with another 14 in intensive care units. To date, 456 deaths have been linked to the swine flu virus.

This article was published on Fri 19 March 2010