‘People do die from flu’ warns doctor, as he tells those at risk to get vaccinated
- Credit: Archant
A doctor has urged people to protect themselves and their loved ones from flu by making sure they are vaccinated against the potentially deadly illness.
Last year flu was identified as a leading cause of death in those over 75.
And the NHS is braced for what could be its worst flu season in history, amid fears full hospitals would be unable to cope.
Dr Anoop Dhesi, partner at Stalham Staithe Surgery and chairman of North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: 'Particularly for older patients if they get flu it can be a very debilitating condition. Unfortunately, people do die every year from flu.'
Dr Dhesi said with Norfolk's having an aging population, there were more susceptible people in our communities.
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He added: 'Flu can be incredibly unpleasant for many people but for a select few it can be fatal. The best way for people to protect themselves and loved ones around them is to get the vaccination on offer especially those offered it for free on the NHS.'
Those eligible for a free vaccination include women like Stacey Knight, from Stalham, who is 18-weeks pregnant.
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Ms Knight, 29, said: 'It was just a scratch, and it's to protect myself and my baby really. To anyone else I'd say do your research, there are a lot of people frightened and people say don't get it. But there's nothing wrong with getting it done, if you are worried do your research and it will put your mind at rest.'
Young children can be offered the nasal spray vaccination with the adult flu vaccine offered for free to those in groups at particular risk of infection and complications from flu.
The last flu pandemic seen by the NHS was in 2009. But Simon Stevens, the head of the health service, told a conference in Manchester this month levels are expected to be high this year.
He said: 'The signs from Australia and New Zealand - who are just coming out of their winter - are that it has been a heavy flu season and many of the hospitals down there have struggled to cope.
'We know that there is a great deal of work to be done over the next six to eight weeks with our partners in local authorities to put the NHS on the right footing for the winter ahead.'
The warning to have the flu vaccine comes as the government's newly-updated National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies says a pandemic of flu could kill up to 750,000 people in a short space of time.
It could affect up to 50pc of the population and stopping a pandemic is near impossible in modern day due to air travel and global movement.
Pandemic flu is different to the seasonal flu experienced every winter as it comes out of nowhere and therefore there is no time to develop the correct vaccine. It would spread faster due to a lack of immunity and cause a more serious illness.
The risk register says: 'There is a high probability of a flu pandemic occurring, but it is impossible to predict when, or exactly what it would be like.'
But seasonal flu may also cause problems this winter as an epidemic which affected the southern hemisphere could hit the UK. Over the Australian winter, more than 70,000 cases of flu were recorded this year. Flu vaccines can be arranged by contacting your GP surgery.
The groups being offered the adult flu vaccine are:
• Pregnant women;
• Those aged 65 or over;
• Those aged under 65 with long-term conditions;
The nasal spray vaccination is offered to the following groups of children free of charge:
• Children aged two and three on August 31 2017 – that is, children born between September 1 2013 and August 31 2015;
• Children in reception class and school years one, two, three and four;
• Children aged 2 to 17 with long-term health conditions.
Some people are at higher risk of serious illness and can be given the pneumococcal vaccination on the NHS. These include:
• Adults aged 65 or over;
• Children and adults with certain long-term health conditions, such as a serious heart or kidney condition.