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The flu jab: have you had yours?

Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why it’s sometimes called seasonal flu. It’s a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly.

The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. Healthy individuals usually recover within two to seven days, but for some the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death.

Some people are more susceptible to the effects of flu. For them, it can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, or can make existing conditions worse.

The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts.

The flu vaccination is available now and is free on the NHS for various groups and individuals that could be particularly vulnerable to complications.

This year, the following are eligible for the free flu vaccination:

  • All children aged two to nine (but not ten years or older) on 31 August 2018
  • Pregnant women
  • Aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2019)
  • Those in long-stay residential care homes
  • Carers
  • Healthcare workers
  • People with learning disabilities and their carers
  • Those aged six months to under 65 years of age with a serious medical condition which include chronic (long term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis; chronic heart disease, such as heart failure; chronic kidney disease at stage three, four or five; chronic liver disease; chronic neurological disease such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease, or learning disability; diabetes; splenic dysfunction; weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment); morbidly obese (defined as BMI of 40 and above)

If you do not fall into any of the above groups, you can still have the vaccination; talk to your local pharmacist or GP surgery to book yours.

Dr Abid Irfan, Chair at Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The flu virus is easily spread within communities and can be very unpleasant. Patients’ whose immunity is lowered due to disease or treatment, such as steroid medication or cancer treatment are also at increased risk and should have the flu vaccine as soon as possible We’re keen to ensure all patients are vaccinated, especially those who are already at risk groups”.

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Editors Notes:
The flu vaccine for each winter helps provide protection against the strains of flu that are likely to be present and may be different from last year’s. For this reason we strongly recommend that even if patients were vaccinated last year, they should be vaccinated again this year. In addition protection from the flu vaccine may only last about six months so you should have the flu vaccine each flu season.

If you need medical help and are unsure what to do, call NHS 111 for help and advice. They are available 24 hours a day.