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North East MP backs NHS flu jab call

Friday, 04 July, 2014
North East MP backs NHS flu jab call

People at risk from flu across North Tyneside and Northumberland are being urged to get their flu jab now to ensure they don’t spend Christmas ill in bed, or worse, in hospital.

At risk groups across the north of the region including the over 65s, pregnant women and people with a serious existing health problem, are all being urged to get their free annual flu vaccination at their GP surgery before the holidays begin.

Over half of Northumbria Healthcare’s 9000 strong workforce has now had their flu vaccination, protecting themselves, their families and their patients this winter.  NHS bosses are also calling on any other frontline staff who haven’t yet been vaccinated to get the jab ASAP not only to protect themselves, but also to help prevent the virus from spreading to those who are more vulnerable.

Dr Jane Weatherstone, GP clinical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “For people who are normally fit and healthy, flu is a pretty unpleasant illness but for vulnerable people who are at risk, it can be really serious, often resulting in a hospital stay.  That is why it is so important that people get their flu jab as soon as possible and especially before the festivities begin.

“The last thing we want is for people to become seriously ill at Christmas and flu is one of the very few illnesses that is actually vaccine preventable.  If you are at risk from flu then a quick trip to see your GP for your free flu jab will make sure you are able to enjoy a healthy Christmas.”

Anyone aged 65 or over, people of all ages with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, heart or lung disease, as well as pregnant women, can become very ill from flu and develop complications such as pneumonia, which in some cases can be fatal. That is why people at risk are offered the free flu jab every year which protects against the different strains of flu which circulate each winter.

Latest statistics* show that only around half of the ‘at risk’ population of North Tyneside and Northumberland had taken up their offer of a free flu jab by the end of October.

Local MP for Hexham Guy Opperman is one of those people in an at risk group for flu and gets his jab every year after losing his spleen following a horse riding accident in 2006.  Without a spleen, Guy’s body is less able to fight off serious infections like flu.

Guy commented:  “If you haven’t done so already now really is the time to get your flu jab. People who are at risk from flu need to protect themselves and their families, with a free flu jab.

“I got my jab several weeks ago and I want to remind everyone of increased risk that they really need to make sure they protect themselves and have the vaccine. I know people will be busy with Christmas but it is not too late. It is very important to protect yourself if you are at risk as flu can kill.”

Dr Alistair Blair, chief clinical officer for NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) added: “We know that flu can be a very serious illness for some people, but we also know that it can be very easily prevented with a simple vaccination.

“It is fantastic that so many frontline NHS staff working in hospitals and in the community in the north of our region now had their jab and we would urge other at risk members of the public to do the same.  There is still time to get your jab before Christmas and make sure you are protected and can enjoy the festivities.”

The following groups all qualify for a flu vaccine and should contact their GP surgery straight away if they have not already received their free flu jab:

·         People aged 65 and older

·         Pregnant women (where both mother and baby will be protected)

·         People living in a residential or nursing home

·         People with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, COPD, bronchitis, liver disease, neurological disease such as Parkinson or motor neurone disease, or a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as for cancer)

·         Main carers for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill

·         Healthcare or social care professionals directly involved in patient care (to be arranged by employers)

This year, for the first time, children aged two and three years old will be offered protection from flu as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. The aim is to protect healthy children who are susceptible to flu, but also reduce the spread of the virus and protect others such as their younger siblings and grandparents.

Flu is a highly contagious infection that anyone can catch and for some, especially the elderly, vulnerable patients in hospital and for those in ‘at risk’ groups it can be very serious.

Although symptoms are similar to the common cold, they tend to be more severe and last for longer.  Flu symptoms include a sudden high temperature, headache, general aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat.  They can make you feel so exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed and rest until you feel better.  For more information about flu visit www.nhs.uk/flu


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