Commissioners in East Berkshire have launched their annual fight against flu working closely with partners, GPs and other health professionals.
Whilst we have been particularly spoilt with fabulous weather this year, the colder months are not too far away, thus it is important that we all take relevant steps to help keep well this winter.
Flu occurs every year and is a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly. Having your flu vaccination can help protect you and others.
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. In the worst case, flu can result in a hospital stay or even death.
The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts which is usually around December time
The flu vaccination is available 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
Aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2019)
Those in long-stay residential care homes
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 within any of the above groups, you can still have the vaccination by paying for it at your local pharmacist.
The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, extreme tiredness and aches and pains in the joints and muscles. Healthy individuals usually recover within a week, but for some the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death. If you do get the flu make sure you rest, drink plenty of fluids and eat healthily. Taking over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce any fever or discomfort, can also help.
Flu is caused by influenza viruses and not bacteria. Therefore, antibiotics will not help to treat it. However, if there are complications from getting flu, antibiotics may be needed.
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 washing your hands frequently or using hand gels to reduce the risk of picking up the virus.
Associate Director for Nursing and Quality, Jo Greengrass, from the East Berkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Getting your flu vaccine is easy. Simply call and book an appointment with your doctor, midwife or pharmacy.
“Some GP surgeries across East Berkshire are offering flu clinics on certain dates/ times for those who are eligible for the free vaccine, so it would be worth you checking these details by either calling your practice or by visiting their website. Some surgeries are sending out invitations to attend these clinics.
“This year, a new vaccine is being offered to those aged 65 and over which has been shown to be more effective with older people and aims to give better protection which could reduce GP flu related consultations, hospital stays and prevent deaths in the worst cases. Your GP or Pharmacy are receiving this vaccine in three stages between now and November so if there is a slight delay, people should not worry as they will receive the vaccination in time.
She added: “If you have a long term condition such as asthma, diabetes, a neurological disease or chronic liver, kidney or lung disease, or indeed if you are pregnant, then protecting yourself against flu is vital.
“Flu can also be serious for young children and because they mix with so many family members they are called ‘superspreaders’. For these reasons, we feel it is really important for them to be vaccinated to protect themselves and those around them.”
This year, children in Reception, Years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 (but not ten years or older) will be offered the free flu vaccination in the form of a nasal spray in schools. Children aged two to three will continue to have their vaccine by their GP.
The strain of flu can change each year so even if you were vaccinated last year, you are being advised to vaccinate again this year.