For most healthy people, flu is a very unpleasant disease and it generally takes at least a week to recover. But for some, the disease can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, or can make existing conditions worse. In the worst cases, flu can result in a stay in hospital, or even death.
The following people are at particular risk if they catch flu and are eligible for the free vaccine:
• Older people, aged over 65.
• All children aged two, three and four years old, plus school-aged children in reception class and school years one to five.
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• Pregnant women.
• Those with underlying health issues, particularly heart disease, asthma and COPD.
• Those seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above).
• Those whose immune system isn’t working properly.
• Those living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility.
• Those caring for elderly or disabled people.
Anna Hartley, director of public health for Wakefield Council, said: “It’s a common misconception that it is only older people who suffer the most when they get flu. Many children and adults under the age of 65 are putting themselves at just as much risk to the effects of the virus. Seasonal flu is highly contagious but is easily preventable with a quick vaccine.
“Those who are at an increased risk, or those who care for someone vulnerable are encouraged to make an appointment with their GP practice or visit their local community pharmacy as soon as possible.”
Coun Pat Garbutt, Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for adults and health, said: “Getting vaccinated is really quick and easy and, as the flu virus changes each year, you need a flu jab each winter to be protected.
“The virus can be passed from people who don’t even have the symptoms. It is important for us to remain vigilant and take all the necessary precautions to protect those who are more vulnerable.”
To help stop the spread of flu, people are advised to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing and to wash their hands regularly.
For further advice and information about the flu vaccination, people are advised to speak to their GP, practice nurse or pharmacist, or read Public Health England’s flu vaccination leaflet.