It's not too late to protect against flu
Health chiefs from across Cheshire and Merseyside are warning local people about the risk of flu as statistics show fewer at-risk people have been vaccinated against the illness this year.
Latest figures from Public Health England show hospitals are seeing increasing numbers of people with breathing and chest problems as a result of flu. However, so far across Cheshire and Merseyside, 41.2% of pregnant women and 41.9% of people aged under 65 who are at risk have had their flu vaccination, which is down on the same time last year.
Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people within the first 5 days.
It is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours. Flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.
Dr Nikki Stevenson is a Consultant Respiratory Physician and Medical Director at Wirral University Teaching Hospital. She said “Christmas may be over for another year, but winter and flu certainly aren’t.
“Flu can be extremely serious to the most vulnerable. There’s still time to protect yourself and your loved ones with the flu vaccination, especially if you are pregnant or if you’re under the age of 65 with an at risk health condition such as asthma.
“We’re seeing an increasing number of people coming to hospital emergency departments across Cheshire and Merseyside with flu like symptoms.
“Help us, help you. Stay protected this winter. Drink plenty of fluids, and take medication such as paracetamol to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains. Flu is highly contagious, so please only go to hospital if your condition is so bad, that you need emergency help fast.”
Dr Anjila Shah, Consutlant in Health Protection at Public Health England North West, added “We know that uptake of the flu vaccination is slightly down compared to the same time last year. The vaccine is the best defence we have against the spread of flu and early indications suggest that the flu vaccines are well matched to the strains of flu likely to circulate this year.
“We urge anyone who is eligible to take up the offer of a free flu vaccine and protect themselves against flu. It isn’t too late for people to get vaccinated at their GP or local pharmacy – especially pregnant women, those aged 65.”
If there is an increase in uptake from those most at risk of catching flu, this helps to reduce serious health consequences and hospitalisation amongst these groups as well as GP appointments and pressure on A&E.
Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Intensive Care Unit Matron Deborah Graham added, “Flu doesn’t discriminate. Every year we see the devastating impact it has on patients of all ages within our intensive care department.
“Luckily we all have the option to protect ourselves, friends and family by getting the flu jab. I would urge everyone, especially those with higher risk factors such as respiratory illnesses or pregnant women, to make sure they have this potentially life-saving protection.”
The flu vaccination is available for free on the NHS from your local GP if you fall into one of the at-risk categories.