Health leaders are urging patients who are most at risk from flu to protect themselves and their families as early as possible with a free flu jab. The plea has been made by NHS Erewash and NHS Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in support of a national campaign being launched by Public Health England.
Flu is an infectious and common viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. Common symptoms of flu include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, myalgia, extreme fatigue, a dry cough, sore throat and stuffy nose. In young children gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea may be seen.
Most cases of flu in the UK occur during an 8-10 week period during the autumn and winter months. In the 2013/14 season, there were 904 intensive care or high dependency unit admissions for confirmed influenza and 98 deaths.
Flu immunisation is one of the most effective ways to prevent flu and so reduce the potential harm it can cause. The most likely viruses that will cause flu each year are identified in advance of the flu season in the UK and vaccines are then made to provide protection against these strains as closely as possible.
Those at greater risk from flu include people aged 65 or over, pregnant women, the very young and people with health conditions such as severe asthma, chest or heart complaints and diabetes.
Carers and frontline health and social care staff are also encouraged to get a free jab to protect themselves and those around them. Children aged 2-4 years are now eligible for the free flu vaccination. This is given as a nasal spray which is a quick, effective and painless alternative to the injection.
Dr Avi Bhatia, Chair of NHS Erewash CCG, said:
“The flu vaccination reduces risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and even death among those who are most at risk. I would urge everyone who is eligible to have the flu vaccination as early as possible before flu starts circulating in the community.
“The flu vaccine changes every year to fight the latest strains of flu so even if you had a jab last winter you need another one this year to stay flu safe. The jab doesn’t contain the ‘live’ virus so it cannot give you the flu. Simply contact your GP to arrange a convenient appointment and get your jab. It’s quick, safe and free for those most at risk from the virus."
Dr Sheila Newport, Chair of NHS Southern Derbyshire CCG, said:
“Flu in the vulnerable groups can be extremely serious and have far reaching complications. So, the flu vaccination is free because people need it.
“If you have a long-term condition, or you are pregnant, you are at greater risk of severe complications if you catch flu. If you have children aged two, three or four, don’t put off taking them for their free flu vaccination. Flu can be a very unpleasant illness in children as they suffer the same symptoms as adults including fever, chills and aching muscles.”
For more information, speak to your GP or local pharmacist, or visit www.nhs.uk/flu