People with long term health conditions are putting themselves at risk from flu if they don’t get vaccinated, warns Public Health Wales

Public Health Wales is reminding people with long term health conditions to protect themselves from flu this year.

Flu can be serious. Last winter saw flu circulating in Wales at its highest levels for many years: 16,657 patients were diagnosed with influenza-like illness by GPs; 2,680 patients were confirmed with influenza (flu) in hospitals and 192 patients were confirmed with flu in intensive care units. There were outbreaks of flu in hospitals and care homes.

Flu is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms generally come on suddenly, and can include fever, chills, headache, cough, body aches and fatigue. Flu is spread via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection, which can spread rapidly.

The Chief Nursing Officer for Wales, Jean White, is urging everyone eligible to make sure they take up the offer of a flu vaccine this year: “If you have a long term or chronic health condition, flu can affect you more than other people. There is protection available, and an annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent yourself from catching flu, which can make your condition worse or can lead to other dangerous complications. Please don’t take any risks – make sure you get your vaccine this year.”

Annual flu vaccination is the single best way to protect against catching and spreading flu. Despite this, last winter 47.9% of people under the age of 65 with a kidney condition missed out on getting a flu vaccine in Wales.

*Source: Public Health Wales

People with a long-term health condition, such as chronic kidney disease, are at a higher risk than the general population of developing complications of flu, so if they catch it they are more likely to be very unwell. Evidence shows that people with chronic kidney disease are around eighteen times more likely to die from flu than people without a health condition. Flu can make a long term health condition worse.

People with a chronic kidney disease are eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine, they can get it from their GP surgery or community pharmacy. Immunity wanes, and the flu virus can change each year, so the vaccine is changed for best protection. This is why it’s important to have a flu vaccine every year.

Children aged two and three years old (age on 31 August 2018) and all primary school children are routinely offered a flu vaccine to help protect them from catching and spreading flu. The vaccine for children is a spray – so no needle. Details of the children’s programme can be found at www.beatflu.org.

Beat Flu is a public health campaign in Wales run by Public Health Wales, and aims to raise awareness of the benefits of annual flu vaccination.

If you’re unsure about having the flu vaccine always check with a health professional.