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From Covid to flu – seven viruses in circulation and how worried we should be about them

A new Government dashboard will allow the public to track a number of viruses that are in common circulation. But how worried should we be about them?


Still in circulation despite the World Health Organisation declaring an end to the pandemic earlier this year, there is broad immunity in the population from previous infections and vaccination, with an autumn booster for the over-65s, NHS workers and people with serious health conditions. A new variant, BA.2.86, is being monitored for signs that it could make vaccines less effective, although there is not yet evidence that it is more infectious.


Influenza viruses are in circulation every year and normally do not cause serious complications, but can lead to thousands of deaths a year – last winter there were 15,000 excess deaths from flu. There is a vaccine programme for over-65s, people with serious health conditions and primary school age children.


This is a common cold virus but it can cause serious complications in rare cases. Last year, it was associated with an unusual outbreak of hepatitis in children. Adenovirus normally causes mild symptoms such as a runny nose, cough and sore throat but can have gastrointestinal symptoms.

Human metapneumovirus (hMPV)

Another common virus which can cause disease of the upper and lower respiratory tracts, with greater risk of illness in young children and older people. Symptoms include a cough, fever, nasal congestion and shortness of breath but in rare cases can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia.


Can cause symptoms similar to a common cold, such as a runny nose and sore throat, but in rare cases can cause more serious illness in children including croup, bronchitis or pneumonia.


This virus is the most frequent cause of the common cold, with classic symptoms such as a runny nose and sore throat. Most infections are mild but in rare cases can cause more serious illness in children and older people.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

Common respiratory virus that causes mild cold-like symptoms but can be more serious in very young children and older people, with infection in the lungs. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under the age of one.

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