The Government has announced the relaunch of a flu-busting advertising campaign – as the number killed by the virus this winter rose to 39.
As the Health Protection Agency confirmed 12 more flu deaths this week – taking the toll to 39 since October – Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the Catch it, Bin it, Kill it advert would be relaunched on Saturday.
Of the 39 deaths, 36 had swine flu and three had another strain, flu type B. All except one case were under 65 years of age and four were under the age of five.
The campaign, originally launched in November 2008, warns people to throw away tissues and wash hands thoroughly.
Mr Lansley also urged the vulnerable to have a flu jab.
He said: “The first line of defence against flu is to be vaccinated – I urge everyone in an at-risk group who hasn’t been vaccinated to contact their GP and book an appointment.
“The second line of defence is to practice good respiratory and hand hygiene – to cover our nose and mouth when we sneeze, put tissues in the bin and wash our hands regularly. That’s why we’re relaunching the Catch it, Bin it, Kill it campaign from this Saturday.
“The third line of defence is a well prepared NHS with the ability to treat those who do need help. Thanks to robust early planning, the NHS is coping well with the pressures of seasonal flu this year.”
The Government usually runs an annual flu vaccination campaign, but in September it announced it was ending it because those most at risk would be contacted anyway via their doctor. A Department of Health spokesman said there were still no plans to reintroduce a new flu vaccination campaign.
Shadow health secretary John Healey said the relaunch was a “u-turn”. He said: “The Health Secretary made a serious misjudgment when he axed the annual autumn advertising campaign to help public understanding of this flu and boost vaccinations for those most at risk. At a time when the NHS is stretched and playing catch up, the decision he has taken today is better late than never.”