Lancashire and South Cumbria’s ’s medical director has urged people who are in at risk groups to get themselves vaccinated, as numbers of people experiencing flu symptoms in the local area continue to rise. Dr Kieran Murphy, Medical Director for NHS England (Lancashire & South Cumbria) warned that people with long-term conditions such as asthma, heart-disease and diabetes are particularly at risk of serious illness as the flu virus continues to spread.
The latest figures published by Public Health England show that the number of people across Lancashire and South Cumbria going to see their GP with flu symptoms has doubled over the past two weeks, with the highest rates amongst people aged over 25. So far over 117,000 people in at-risk groups have been vaccinated across Lancashire and South Cumbria, in one of the biggest drives to fight the flu virus – but there’s still time for others to have the vaccine.
Dr Murphy said: “For the majority of people flu is an unpleasant illness, but they should start to feel better within seven days. The problem for people with long-term conditions is, that they are more susceptible to complications if they catch the flu virus, because they have weakened immune systems. This means that a bout of flu could turn quickly in to a serious infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, which can cause longer-term damage to the lungs – and unfortunately some people end up in critical care in hospital.
“Unfortunately at the moment we’re seeing a rise in the number of people admitted to hospital as a result of catching the flu. It is encouraging that so many people have already been vaccinated and this will help to control the outbreak, however we know some people have still not had their flu vaccine. My message to them is to have it as soon as possible, because it remains the best possible protection against the flu virus.”
People in at-risk groups can have the vaccine free of charge, including those aged 65 years or over, pregnant women, and individuals with certain chronic conditions. This year the free vaccine is being offered to children, who were age 2 and 3 on 1st September, as a nasal spray at GP practices, to help protect them from flu and also protect their grandparents and other people in the community who are more at risk of developing serious complications. Speak to your GP, who will be able to advise you on booking an appointment to have the flu jab.