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Fight Against Flu Begins

A wide ranging campaign to promote flu vaccinations and encourage people to look after themselves over winter is being launched by local health chiefs and Reading Borough Council this week.

People eligible for a free flu vaccine are being urged to take up the offer and parents with children in school year 6 are being reminded their youngsters now qualify for the vaccination.

Other groups who qualify for the flu vaccine are: 

  • children aged two and three through their GP (via a painless nasal spray flu vaccine)
  • children in reception and school years 1 to 6 (via schools)
  • those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups – for example chronic (long term) respiratory, heart or liver disease, neurological diseases like Parkinson’s or motor neurone, or with a learning disability or diabetes
  • pregnant women
  • those aged 65 years and over
  • those in long-stay residential care homes
  • carers
  • those with close contacts to people with compromised immune systems.


Frontline health and social care workers*, particularly those directly involved in the care of vulnerable patients/clients, are also being advised to have the vaccination. And other people who want to take action to protect themselves can pay to have the jab at their local pharmacy.

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

Some people are more susceptible to the effects of flu and they face an increased risk of developing more serious illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia.

Flu also puts a big strain on already overstretched NHS services during the winter. Health bosses hope that by getting more people vaccinated it will help ease pressure on medics and the wider health and social care systems that support at-risk groups.

Dr Abid Irfan, Chair of the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “The flu virus is easily spread within communities and can be very unpleasant which is why we’re stressing so strongly the need for all patients to be vaccinated – especially those at-risk groups.

“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.

“And we’re strongly recommending that even if patients were vaccinated last year, they should go for a jab again this year because there are different strains of flu each winter and it’s important people are protected from them,” he said.

“In addition, protection from the vaccine may only last about six months which makes it important to have the vaccine each flu season.

“It’s important too that people realise there’s no risk of them getting flu by having the vaccination. The jab is there to protect them from what can be a very nasty illness,” Dr Irfan added.

Councillor Graeme Hoskin, Reading’s Lead Member for Health said: “The vaccination is a quick, free and effective way to be protected from flu. No one wants flu and getting vaccinated now is the best way to prevent this highly unwelcome illness. Don’t put off getting the flu vaccination; if you’re eligible get it now. It’s free because you need it.”

A high profile social media campaign promoting the vaccines is being planned along with information events at local surgeries and clinics and special campaigns aimed at specific groups like pregnant women and over 65s. There’s also more information on www.berkshirewestccg.nhs.uk and www.berkshirewesticp.nhs.uk

The NHS Choices Flu Pages www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu also contains useful advice and guidance.

 

ENDS

Notes

*Health and care staff eligible for the free vaccine  include those employed by a:

  • registered residential care or nursing home
  • registered homecare organisation
  • voluntary managed hospice provider, who are directly involved in the care of vulnerable** patients/clients who are at increased risk from exposure to influenza.

**Vulnerable means those patients/clients in a clinical risk group for flu or who are aged 65 years and over.

Patient Case Study

Reading mum Marisa Bueno contracted flu last Christmas and not only did it ruin her family’s festivities, it floored her for weeks afterwards.

Her 12-year-old son got it first during a trip to see family in Spain. And, because it is so contagious, it quickly spread to Marisa, her brother and 75 year old mother.

They suffered fever up to 40C, joint and back pain and strong persistent coughs.

“At the peak of it we were unable to leave bed or have any solid food, only fluids. Even staying in bed was not particularly comfortable as we had both shivering and sweating and didn’t sleep well,” said Marisa, a Commercial Manager who lives in Caversham.

These serious symptoms dragged on for eight days and were followed by post flu symptoms of extreme tiredness which lasted for another three weeks, during which Marisa contracted a chest infection linked to the flu.

 “I was 42 at the time, fit and well with a good healthy lifestyle and had no reason to believe I was particularly prone to flu and I was surprised how both my brother (40) and I, went down really quickly with the illness and took such a long time to recover.

“The illness clearly doesn’t discriminate by age. Everyone in my family from the ages of 12 to 76 was affected. I can imagine how hard this could impact someone who had pre-existing health conditions or compromised immune systems,” said Marisa.

“By experiencing first-hand what the virus can do to young and fit individuals, I can see how entire populations were decimated by it before vaccinations and antibiotics became widely available. It is important not to think that the illness is now less lethal than it was in the past.

“After we had overcome our flu we heard from one of our neighbours, that her mum, also in her 70s had passed away from complications brought up by the virus. It can still happen in this day which is why I think it is so important people take a flu jab,” she said.

“I also feel the implications of flu can go beyond the loss of physical health. At some point, during my recovery, I felt quite isolated at home. Because it is so easily spread, I was advised to keep away from family, friends or neighbours. I can see how easy it could be for the elderly, those with other illnesses or those without families, to slide into feelings of isolation and depression which can obviously take much longer to deal with,” said Marisa.

For more information, please contact communications@royalberkshire.nhs.uk

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.