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Health Matters - Why the flu jab is so important

Health Matters - Why the flu jab is so important
31 October 2018

Dr Julia Huddart, clinical lead for urgent care at NHS Eastern Cheshire CCG

Having your flu jab protects you and those around you. Flu is a serious illness which we should all be playing our part to prevent, protecting both ourselves and those around us. The vaccine is up to 70 per cent effective, depending on the strains of flu circulating each year. So be a flu fighter and have the jab.

As well as getting your jab, you can help reduce the spread of flu by regularly washing your hands, particularly after sneezing or coughing. You can pass flu on without having any symptoms.

If you have flu, stay away from work until you are better. The virus is highly infectious and outbreaks can happen quickly.

Here are some key facts about flu that many people may not be aware of:

  • You could be spreading flu right now - Studies show that up to 77 per cent of people with flu have no symptoms and could potentially spread it to the most vulnerable.
  • Pregnant women can be vaccinated - Pregnant women can have the flu vaccination at any stage of their pregnancy.
  • Flu kills - An estimated average of 8,000 people die from flu in England each year. That’s more than eight times the number of confirmed cases of measles, mumps and rubella combined in 2016.
  • The flu jab can’t give you flu - The adult flu jab doesn’t contain a live virus so it’s impossible to get flu from it.
  • Flu affects healthy people too - Up to one third of influenza deaths are in healthy people.
  • The jab is very safe - The risk of having a serious (anaphylactic) reaction to the flu jab is less than one in a million and is much, much lower than the risk of getting seriously ill from having the flu itself.

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition, including:

  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, heart disease and kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease and neurological conditions
  • diabetes
  • problems with your spleen
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • being seriously overweight (BMI of 40 or above).

This list of conditions isn't exhaustive. Your GP can assess you, taking into account the risk of flu worsening any underlying illness you may have, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself.

If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you may also be advised to have a flu vaccine. Speak to your GP or pharmacist about this.