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.

The ‘Weekly National Seasonal Respiratory Report’ provides a regular update of current epidemiological information on respiratory pathogen activity and includes the latest flu vaccine uptake data in Scotland. 

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Antiviral guidance

2022-23 guidance on the use of antiviral medicines to treat influenza where clinically indicated is detailed in CMO(2022)39 Letter: Seasonal Influenza: Use of Antivirals 2022-23 (Nov 2022).

UK Health Security Agency guidance is available at: Guidance on use of antiviral agents for the treatment and prophylaxis of seasonal influenza.

This guidance has been approved for use in Scotland by Public Health Scotland. The guidance should be used in conjunction with the PHS external guidance 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 2020 to 2021, the flu vaccines procured for Scotland are in line with the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI). Please see the JVCI guidance 2021/22 (external website) for more information. 

New delivery arrangements

The Vaccine Transformation Programme (VTP) in Scotland began on 1 April 2018 to modernise the delivery of vaccination programmes, including influenza vaccination. This involves transferring the delivery of such programmes away from a GP-based one to one involving delivery through specialist teams through the NHS board and Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCP). This had only been partially progressed by late 2019 but has since accelerated in light of COVID. By late 2020, Scotland now has a mixed delivery model for influenza vaccination which varies by NHS Board.

The Digital and Data infrastructure to support this mixed model is not yet in place, meaning there is no established digital data capture or data feeds for vaccination clinics coming into national systems for reporting purposes (apart from those remaining in a GP practice). A combination of data recording systems has been used to generate the influenza vaccine uptake data.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) letters

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) letters in respect of the 2020 to 2021 Flu Vaccination Programme have now been published by Scottish Government and can be viewed below:

For further information on influenza vaccine, please visit  NHS Inform (external weblink).

Patient group directions (PGDs)

Copies of the season influenza-related PGDs are available on our website. Alternatively, email for copies.

Seasonal influenza vaccine uptake data visualisation

Use the dashboard to explore the seasonal influenza vaccine uptake data in Scotland. The latest data represent uptake during the 2019 to 2020 season.

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 produce regular reports summarising influenza and other seasonal pathogen activity to inform local and national planning activities. 

Please note that the monthly summer 2020 schedule of reporting was cancelled due to workforce reprioritisation to support the response to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.

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: