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Media release: People encouraged to have the flu jab by GP leader

A GP leader in Devon is urging people not to put their lives at risk and to take advantage of their free flu vaccination at their local doctor’s surgery.

Flu is a highly infectious disease which can affect anyone, so people at risk are encouraged to have the vaccination, which is now available in local GP practices.

Some groups – including pregnant women, young children aged two to four, carers, those with long-term health conditions like heart disease or breathing problems, and over 65s – are more susceptible to flu and its effects, so it is particularly important that they are vaccinated. They can have the vaccine free of charge.

Dr Bruce Hughes, Chair of Devon Local Medical Committee, which represents and supports GPs in the county, said: “Initial indications suggest that this is going to be a worse flu season than usual, with more cases, so I’d encourage people to take action and have the flu vaccination at their local GP practice.

“As the weather becomes colder and we head towards winter, the flu virus begins to circulate widely in the community so it’s important that vulnerable people are protected as soon as possible.

“Don’t take risks with your health – the vaccination is still the first line of defence against flu, as it helps protect against the changing strains of the virus that circulate each year.

“Having the vaccine only takes a few minutes out of your day and offers protection against a virulent virus, potentially stopping both you and your loved ones and carers from falling ill too.

“The vaccine is free for eligible groups, fast and painless. Having your flu jab at your GP practice is the safest way to have the vaccination administered as it offers a personalised service with access to patient medical records, fully trained medical staff on site, and full registration with the Care Quality Commission regulator.”

Dr Hughes, a GP partner at Fremington Medical Centre, near Barnstaple, added: “People should not underestimate the effects of seasonal flu – it is not the same as getting a cold. Flu can knock you off your feet and make it hard to look after children or go to work. In the most serious cases, seasonal flu might land you in hospital – it can even be a killer. Flu can make vulnerable people more likely to suffer complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia and can make existing conditions worse.

Studies have shown that the flu jab does work and will help prevent you getting the flu. It won't stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary between people, so it's not a 100% guarantee that you'll be flu-free, but even if you do get flu after vaccination it's likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.

Flu viruses are constantly changing and this is one of the main reasons why people should be vaccinated annually.

People should speak to their GP practice about how to access the vaccine there. Some surgeries will be offering dedicated flu clinics.

The vaccine is administered by either a GP or practice nurse at the surgery, who can also offer aftercare, where necessary. Young children are vaccinated via a nasal spray – everyone else receives a quick injection. Vaccinating children has a double benefit: as well as protecting them from flu, it also protects others, such as grandparents and siblings, as children are much more likely to infect others.

Expectant mums should have the vaccine whatever stage of pregnancy they are in. Those who are pregnant could become very ill if they get flu, which could also be bad for their baby. Having the vaccine can also protect their baby against flu after they’re born and during the early months of life. Your GP or midwife will advise you. Your GP or midwife will advise you.

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include a fever, chills, cough, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.

People who are otherwise fit and healthy usually don’t need to see a doctor if they have flu-like symptoms and should self-care. ‘At risk’ groups who display flu-like symptoms may wish to consider calling NHS 111 or their GP.

Basic hygiene will help prevent the spread of flu – including covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, washing hands with soap and water and throwing used tissues straight in the bin.

For more information about flu, and the vaccination, visit the NHS Choices website at: www.nhs.uk