THE current flu vaccine is still the best line of defence against the seasonal virus, a new report has revealed.

The study aims to look at the interim effectiveness of the flu vaccine used in the UK over the winter period.

Collected by five primary health surveillance schemes throughout the UK, including Health Protection Scotland (HPS), it measured the virus in people who presented a flu-like illness to their GP across the UK from October 1 to January 4.

Loading article content

The results concluded that overall the vaccine had a 51% vaccine effectiveness (VE) rate against any kind of strain of the flu virus.

Dr Jim McMenamin, consultant epidemiologist with HPS and primary author of the report, said: "The trivalent vaccine is still the best overall against any kind of influenza. The way that we calculate the effectiveness is against those patients who went to their GP who were diagnosed with a flu-like illness.

"Many of the GPs in Scotland participate and submit swabbing samples from those patients.

"Because we know about whether they have been vaccinated or not, we can then work out how effective the vaccine is."

The latest flu figures show appointments with family doctors about flu symptoms have risen to 44 per 100,000 of the population in the fourth week of the year, which ended on January 27.

The rise came after hopes the consultation rate had peaked in week two of 2013 (52 per 100,000), after a decrease in week three.

So far, the virus has claimed 11 lives in total this winter season, with 53 people admitted into intensive care.