Flu, or influenza, is a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. It can be very unpleasant, but you'll usually begin to feel better within about a week.

You can catch flu all year round, but it's especially common in winter, which is why it's also known as seasonal flu.

Flu isn't the same as the common cold. Flu is caused by a different group of viruses and the symptoms tend to start more suddenly, be more severe and last longer.

Information for the public has been produced and includes some leaflets. This information can be found on the NHS Inform website.

A range of materials for healthcare professionals have also been produced and can be found on the NHS Education Scotland (NES) website.


Listed below are key documents and resources that have been made available to assist with Seasonal Influenza vaccination programme.

Antiviral guidance

Guidance for 2019 to 2020 is available from Public Health England (PHE) on the use of antiviral agents for the treatment and prophylaxis of seasonal influenza.

This guidance has been approved for use in Scotland by the Scottish Health Protection Network Guidance Group (SHPN-GG). The guidance should be used in conjunction with the SHPN addendum.

Point of Care Tests (POCT)

The Scottish Microbiology and Virology Network (SMVN) and the Scottish Health Protection Network (SHPN) have produced a joint advisory statement that describes key recommendations that will ensure a better access to diagnostic data for future seasons.

For all infection prevention and control guidance visit the A-Z ​pathogens section of the National Infection and Prevention Control Manual.


In the season 2019 to 2020, the flu vaccines procured for Scotland for the forthcoming flu season are in line with the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice on influenza vaccines for the 2019 to 2020 influenza season.

Both of the vaccines purchased for those aged 65 years and over are considered by the JCVI to be equally effective. Likewise, the two vaccines purchased for those aged 18 to 64 years with "at risk" conditions are considered by the JCVI to be equally effective.

Settings the vaccines are offered in

In general practice

  • All adults aged 65 years and over will receive either an adjuvanted trivalent inactivated flu vaccine (aTIV) or a cell based quadrivalent inactivated vaccine (QIVc).
  • Those aged 18 to 64 years with an "at-risk" condition, as well as pregnant women (at all stages of pregnancy), will receive either a cell based quadrivalent inactivated flu vaccine (QIVc) or an egg based quadrivalent inactivated flu vaccine (QIVe).
  • An egg based quadrivalent inactivated flu vaccine (QIVe) will be offered to children aged from 6 months to 2 years in a clinical risk group.

In general practice and via school based programmes

Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) will continue to be offered to:

  • All children aged two to five years (not yet at school) through GP practices (children must be aged two years or above on 1 September 2019)
  • All primary school aged children (primary one to primary seven) at school.
  • Adolescents under 18 years who are at increased risk from flu because of a long term health condition
  • If LAIV is clinically contraindicated, a suitable quadrivalent, inactivated flu vaccine, will be offered as appropriate.

Via occupational health

  • Free seasonal flu vaccination should be offered by NHS organisations to all employees directly involved in delivering care. This is not an NHS service, but an occupational health responsibility being provided to NHS staff by the NHS as their employers.
  • Healthcare workers will be offered egg based quadrivalent inactivated flu vaccine (QIVe).

New delivery arrangements

  • A number of NHS boards and Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCP) are piloting delivery of the flu vaccine this year to a small proportion of eligible adults and children in the two to five (not yet at school) age group. NHS boards and HSCPs will be in touch with those GP practices affected.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) letters

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) letters in respect of the 2019 to 2020 Flu Vaccination Programme have now been published by Scottish Government and can be viewed below:

Patient group directions

Email if you would like copies of the seasonal influenza-related PGDs.

Seasonal influenza vaccine uptake data visualisation

Use the dashboard to explore the seasonal influenza vaccine uptake data in Scotland.

Data and surveillance

Laboratory-based surveillance of seasonal respiratory pathogens is undertaken throughout the year to monitor trends and to detect when activity is higher than levels expected for the time of year based on activity in previous seasons.

Throughout the winter season, we'll produce regular reports summarising influenza and other seasonal pathogen activity to inform local and national planning activities. 

Starting in the 2019 to 2020 season, the format of the HPS National Seasonal Respiratory Report was changed to that of an Official Statistics publication (Experimental).  

Please note that the monthly summer 2020 schedule of reporting was cancelled due to workforce reprioritisation in order to support the response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

For the 2020 to 2021 season, weekly reporting of seasonal respiratory pathogens – the ‘Weekly National Seasonal Respiratory Report’ – has now moved to our main Data and Intelligence section.

View older publications:

View all surveillance reports

Caveats and supporting notes

The data and the methodologies used in the national seasonal respiratory report can be viewed in the caveats and supporting notes.

Technical document for the 2018 to 2019 flu season

View the reporting rates of influenza-like illness (ILI) consultations from General Practitioners in Scotland technical document.

Erratum to 2017 to 2018 season ILI data

Due to the 2017 to 2018 data issues described in our 2018 to 2019 ILI technical document, the ILI data included on the weekly reports has been revised.

View the retrospective 2017 to 2018 data.


Influenza publications can be viewed below: