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There's still time to fight the winter flu

There’s still time for eligible East Riding residents to take up the free flu vaccination throughout the month of January.

Mike McDermott, associate director of Public Health at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “The more people who are vaccinated, the lower the likelihood and spread of infection, reducing pressure on the NHS and Social Care during winter months.”

Free flu jabs are available for people aged 65 and over, people aged from six months to less than 65 years of age with a long-term health condition, pregnant women, children aged from two to four years, people in long-stay residential care homes, and carers.

All children aged two to eight years are to be offered flu vaccinations as a nasal spray.

Children in Reception and school years 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be offered the flu vaccination within a school-based programme. This will help with uptake and will make it easier for parents as the need for fitting in GP appointments around work and school is removed.

A serious medical condition includes:

- 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

- a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)

- morbidly obese (defined as BMI (Body Mass Index) of 40 and above).

The flu jab is available free from GP surgeries and pharmacies for people in the at-risk groups, and through a school based programme for children aged 4-8 years.

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 continued: “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 before the flu season starts.

“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 serious medical condition or are pregnant, you are at greater risk of severe complications if you catch flu.

“The nasal spray vaccination is a quick, painless and effective way for children aged two to eight, and school years 1 to 4 and the Reception class, to be protected from flu without the need for injections.”

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 or visit the direct page at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/flu-influenza-vaccine.aspx

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