East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s public health team is urging parents and young children to consider the potential impact of infection ontheir elderly relatives at Christmas if they have the flu.
Residents aged 65 years or over are at greater risk of severe complications if they catch flu and are considered to be in the ‘at-risk’ group because of this.
Parents and children are therefore encouraged to take up the flu vaccination, which is free for children aged two to nine, in order to protect themselves during the winter period and avoid spreading the flu during visits to other family members.
Pregnant women and young children are also among those at high risk and mothers are advised to protect themselves, and their unborn babies, from the disease.
As well as pregnant women and children aged two to nine years, the free flu jabs are available for people aged 65 and over, people with a long-term health condition, serious medical condition, people in long-stay residential care homes, and carers.
A serious medical condition includes:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as 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
- splenic dysfunction
- a 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).
The flu jab is available free from GP surgeries and pharmacies for people in the at-risk groups.
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. Colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat. A bad bout of flu can be much worse than a heavy cold.
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.
Mike McDermott, associate director for public health at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “Flu is dangerous, highly contagious and largely preventable.
“For most people who catch flu it is unpleasant, but for some it can lead to chest infections, severe complications and even death.”
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the flu virus in tiny droplets of saliva over a wide area. These droplets can then be breathed in by other people or they can be picked up by touching surfaces where the droplets have landed.
You can prevent the spread of the virus by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and you can wash your hands frequently or use hand gels to reduce the risk of picking up the virus.
Mike added: “The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination, especially those at high risk.
“Don’t be put off getting the flu vaccination. If you are eligible get it now, it’s free because you need it.
“If you have a long-term health condition, even one that is well managed, have a BMI of 40 or over or are pregnant, you are at greater risk of severe complications if you catch flu."
Details of flu clinic times are available from individual GP practices. For more information about who should have a flu jab, visit www.nhs.uk
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