The HSE is urging people in at-risk groups to get vaccinated against influenza. Flu can be a very serious illness, especially for people who are older or who have a long-term illness.
The flu season is here and the following groups of at-risk people need to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza:
Everyone aged 65 years and over;
Anyone over six months of age with a long term illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease or diabetes;
Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment;
Children or teenagers on long-term aspirin therapy;
Residents of nursing homes and other long stay facilities;
Healthcare workers and carers.
Based on advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), this year’s seasonal flu vaccine, available from GPs and pharmacists, protects against three common flu virus strains including the H1N1 (swine flu) strain which is still circulating this year.
Even if you received the vaccine last year, it is still important for all those in the at risk groups to be vaccinated again this year as immunity from the vaccine only lasts for up to twelve months and wanes over time.
This year new regulations have been introduced by the Government to allow pharmacists to give the flu vaccine. The vaccine is available free of charge from GPs and pharmacists to all those in the at-risk groups.
Anyone with a Medical Card or GP Visit Card will not be charged to visit the doctor or pharmacist for the flu vaccine. GPs and pharmacists charge a consultation fee to administer the vaccine to patients without a Medical Card or GP Visit Card but the vaccine itself is provided free of charge, by the HSE, for all those in the at-risk groups.
Healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, therapists and carers, need to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year. It is important that all those working in frontline healthcare protect themselves from getting the flu but also to prevent spreading the flu to vulnerable patients. The flu vaccine is available free to healthcare workers from their local Occupational Health department.
Commenting, the Head of the HSE’s National Immunisation Office, Dr Brenda Corcoran said that the vaccine is the best defence against flu, as it reduces infection and associated illnesses and hospitalisation.
“Flu is very infectious and can cause potentially serious illnesses especially for older people, those who have a chronic illness and pregnant women. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy and also protects the baby. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus and all those at risk should get vaccinated as soon as possible this year to make sure that they are protected.
“The symptoms of flu usually develop over a matter of a few hours and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat. Flu is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature.
“Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter flu remedies to ease symptoms. People in high-risk categories should contact their GP if they develop flu symptoms.
“Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and washing your hands with soap and water as soon as you can are important measures in helping prevent the spread of flu,” said Dr Corcoran.