DOCTORS have urged the public to still get vaccinated against flu, despite the jab not protecting them against a severe new strain.

Medics have warned that a mutated strain has developed which is immune to the flu vaccination.

The bug has resulted in double the amount of emergency admissions to Southampton General Hospital.

Dr Ben Marshall, a specialist in respiratory medicine at the General, said that half of those admitted with respiratory problems were found to have the influenza A H3 virus, a severe strain which is included in the annual seasonal influenza vaccine but, this year, has mutated since the vaccine was prepared.

“We have seen the number of patients, mainly those who have respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD, being admitted as medical emergencies increase from 25-30 a day to more than 50 a day,” he explained.

Dr Marshall said that despite the large numbers, the majority of patients admitted with respiratory conditions complicated by illnesses such as flu and other viruses were being treated and discharged “within days” – but the volume was adding “significant strain” to already stretched hospitals.

It has added to the pressure on the A&E department which, as reported by the Daily Echo this week, is failing to meet Government waiting time targets.

Dr Tristan Clark, a specialist in infectious diseases and respiratory viruses at the General, said that cases of influenza were rising steadily and could continue to do so for another eight weeks.

He said: “Since the vaccine was prepared, the influenza A H3 strain has changed significantly, making the vaccine less effective at protecting against the virus – something we occasionally see.”

He added that although less effective, people should still get vaccinated to offer some degree of protection – particularly those with chronic illnesses who have still not had the jab.

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “It is still vital that people who are in the at risk groups, such as those living with a lung condition, get vaccinated.

“Flu of any strain can leave people more susceptible to developing serious complications, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and every year some cases of flu lead to hospitalisation and even death.

“It is therefore wise for those at greatest risk to do what they can to make sure that risk is minimised.”