Last year you probably heard a great deal about different sorts of flu, including seasonal flu and swine flu. It is very important that people who are at risk of being very unwell with seasonal flu have their free seasonal flu vaccination every year.
What is seasonal flu?
Seasonal flu occurs every year, usually in the winter. It’s a highly infectious disease caused by a virus and not just a common cold. The most likely viruses that will cause flu each year are identified in advance and vaccines are then produced that closely match them. The H1N1 virus that caused the ‘swine flu’ pandemic last year will still be around this winter, so this year’s seasonal flu vaccine will include a vaccine to protect against this virus.
What harm can seasonal flu do?
Some people are more susceptible to the effects of seasonal 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 cases, seasonal flu can result in a stay in hospital, or even death.
Who should be vaccinated against seasonal flu?
Even if you feel healthy, you should definitely consider having the free seasonal flu vaccination if you have:
- a heart problem
- a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis or emphysema
- a kidney disease
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
- a liver disease
- had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
- a neurological condition, for example multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
- a problem with your spleen, for example sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed.
- Carers of elderly or disabled persons
- Residents of long-stay care facilities
You should also consider the vaccination if you are pregnant, or aged 65 and over, or a carer for someone who is at-risk of flu. The flu jab is safe for mothers-to-be and their unborn babies at every stage of pregnancy. In addition it may offer the baby protection for the first four to six months of its life. Well publicised cases of pregnant women in England being affected by the virus demonstrate the importance of being vaccinated, and we are urging anyone who is pregnant or falls into one of the at-risk groups to call their GP and book an appointment.