freelance journalist, print journalist, online journalist, copywriter, content editor, freelance editor, health and lifestyle, blogger Online search for flu information rises tenfold | Christine Morgan - Journalist
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An interesting piece of news from the Department of Health landed in my email box today. Apparently the number of people looking for information about flu on NHS Choices is 10 times higher than this time last year.

As regular readers may know, I have the highest regard for NHS Choices – I have myself written for the website, and know the stringent checks the copy has to go through before it’s published (including reviews by several doctors). So it’s as reliable a source of health information as you can probably get – at least in terms of conventional medicine.

But hang on – 50,000 searches for flu already this winter compared to just 3,800 in 2009? Wasn’t there supposed to be a flu pandemic taking its course in winter 2009? That just doesn’t make sense.

Perhaps it does, though, when you take into account that he government has only just launched a flu awareness campaign (Catch it, Bin it, Kill it – which, if memory serves me well, is the campaign the previous government ran last winter). The words horse and stable door come to mind. Perhaps money-conscious health ministers decided that, having run the campaign for a good part of 2009, most people would remember the message about practising good respiratory and hand hygiene. Then the flu numbers started to rise, and they’ve seemingly thought twice and are running the campaign again.

The fact is we have flu deaths every year during the winter. Every year we need to be reminded of how terrible flu can be for some people (well, for most people really, but especially those who are in a high risk group). And every year we should be reminded about the steps we should take to avoid catching it. Preferably before flu season starts.

If winter 2010/2011 brings a higher number of flu deaths than 2009/2010 (the official pandemic winter), then that’s going to be a terrible price to pay for cutting back on an awareness campaign. Don’t you think?