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A to Z of MS

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A to Z of MS Flu immunisation

As well as the symptoms caused by 'flu', the fever associated with the infection can lead to a worsening of multiple sclerosis symptoms for those people with MS who are adversely affected by heat.

NICE guidelines state that people with MS should be offered immunisation against influenza as infections may be associated with worsening of symptoms or could trigger relapse.

A study of 49 people with MS reported that five experienced fever or flu-like symptoms after vaccination. No-one reported any new neurological symptoms or had complications or needed hospitalisation.

A study reviewing all of the research into flu vaccination and MS, found that vaccination was effective in people with MS and offered them protection from flu infection. Although disease modifying drugs affect the immune system, most did not stop the vaccination from being protective against flu infection.

Department of Health's guidelines state that, "the medical practitioner should apply clinical judgement to take into account the risk of flu exacerbating any underlying disease that a patient may have, as well as the risk of serious illness from flu itself". It also states that "Clinicians should consider on an individual basis the clinical needs of patients including individuals with ... multiple sclerosis..."

The Department of Health's guidelines also currently state that the flu vaccine should also be offered to all who are in receipt of carer's allowance or are the main carer for a person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.

In Scotland, Immunisation Scotland encourage people with MS to get the flu jab.

NHS Choices advises people with MS who feel they are getting the symptoms of flu or have been in contact with someone who is, to talk to thier GP. There are antiviral drugs available that can reduce the effects and duration of an episode of flu, but these are most effective when taken as soon after infection as possible.

Find out more

The flu vaccination Winter 2014/15: Who should have it and why
available from the website (pdf)

Immunisation Scotland.
Seasonal flu vaccine questions and answers.
available from the Immunisation Scotland website


Auriel E, et al.
Seasonal and H1N1v influenza vaccines in MS: safety and compliance.
Journal of the Neurological Sciences 2012;314(1-2):102-3.

Farez MF, Correale J.
Immunizations and risk of multiple sclerosis: systematic review and meta-analysis.
Journal of Neurology 2011;258(7):1197-1206.

Rutschmann OT, et al.
Immunization and MS: a summary of published evidence and recommendations.
Neurology 2002;59(12):1837-1843.

Pellegrino P, et al.
Efficacy of vaccination against influenza in patients with multiple sclerosis: the role of concomitant therapies.
Vaccine 2014;32(37):4730-4735.

NHS Choices
Preventing flu - accessed 6 Feb 2015

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