NHS urges patients to get annual flu jab

People at risk of seasonal flu are being encouraged to protect themselves by getting their annual free flu jabs and this year, for the first time, all pregnant women will be offered the seasonal flu vaccination.

This is because it protects against the H1N1 virus (swine flu) that will still be circulating this winter, and pregnant women who catch this strain are at an increased risk of severe disease and flu-related hospital admissions.

Everyone aged 65 and over is offered the flu jab every year. Last year, in the Central and Eastern Cheshire area 64,958 people aged 65 and over were immunised which was just over 77% of that population group.

Dr Guy Hayhurst Consultant in Public Health said: "We were pleased with the very high uptake last year which was one of the best in the country. In previous years our high uptake has helped to stop the spread of flu in the community. I would strongly advise those of you who have not bothered with this vaccination in the past to get this simple and effective protection to keep you healthy this winter."

Younger people with long-term conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis, serious kidney and liver disease are also eligible for free flu vaccination. 23,280 people aged under 65 years with these long term conditions had the flu vaccination in Central and East Cheshire last year but this only represented 56% of people with these conditions.

Dr Guy Hayhurst Consultant in Public Health said: "We would like to encourage all people with long term conditions to have the flu jab as they are more at risk of developing complications should they catch flu"

Around 15 million people in the UK have the jab, which must be administered every year as it is altered to match the flu strains in circulation.

Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation at the Department of Health said: "This year, the swine flu virus will be one of the most common types of flu going around, and it is important to remind people to remember to get their annual flu jab. The vaccine will protect against three types of flu, including the type known as "swine flu".

"As we know that this virus can pose additional risks to pregnant women, we are recommending this year, that all pregnant women are vaccinated.

"People should not underestimate the effects of seasonal flu. It is not the same as getting a cold. It can seriously affect your health and the risks of developing complications are greater if you have certain pre-existing medical conditions.

"If you are in any of the identified at risk groups, my advice, especially at this time of the year is to visit your local GP surgery and get the vaccination as soon as possible. This is the best form of protection for you and others."

Seasonal flu, also known as influenza, is a highly infectious illness caused by a virus. The types of virus in circulation change every year as does the vaccine, so, it is important that those at risk ensure they receive the jab annually to protect themselves.

For further information visit the NHS website