UK Government

Department of Health (National): Don't underestimate seasonal flu

Press Release   •   Sep 30, 2010 12:18 BST

Remember to get your annual flu jab

People at risk of seasonal flu are encouraged to protect themselves by getting their annual free flu jabs, the Department of Health said today as it launched its seasonal flu plans.

This year, for the first time, all pregnant women will be offered the seasonal flu vaccination.  This is because it protects against the H1N1 virus (swine flu) that will still be circulating this winter, and pregnant women who catch this strain are at an increased risk of severe disease and flu-related hospital admissions.

Everyone aged  65 and over is routinely offered the jab, as are younger people with long-term conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis, serious kidney and liver disease.  Around 15 million people in the UK have the jab, which must be administered every year as it is altered to match the flu strains in circulation.

Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation at the Department of Health said:

“This year, the swine flu virus will be one of the most common types of flu going around, and it is important to remind people to remember to get their annual flu jab.The vaccine will protect against three types of flu, including the type known as “swine flu”.

“As we  know that this virus can pose additional risks to pregnant women, we are recommending this year, that all pregnant women are vaccinated.

“People should not underestimate the effects of seasonal flu. It is not the same as getting a cold. It can seriously affect your health and the risks of developing complications are greater if you have certain pre existing medical conditions.”

“If you are in any of the identified at risk groups, my advice, especially at this time of the year is to visit your local GP surgery and get the vaccination as soon as possible. This is the best form of protection for you and others”.

Seasonal flu, also known as influenza, is a highly infectious illness caused by a virus. The types of virus in circulation change every year as does the vaccine, so, it is important that those at risk ensure they receive the jab annually  to protect themselves.

Every year there are approximately 8,000 flu-related deaths in the winter months in England and Wales - these deaths are avoidable.

The best way to avoid flu is to get immunised, but in addition, people can protect themselves and those around them by practising good hand hygiene with the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ technique. This means carrying tissues, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, disposing of the tissue after one use, and cleaning hands as soon as possible with soap and water or an alcohol hand gel.

Notes to editors

  • For further information – please visit www.nhs.uk/flu
  • For more media information on seasonal flu please call newsdesk on 020 7210 5221.
  • You should have the seasonal flu vaccination if you are:
  • aged 65 years or over
  • living in a residential or nursing home, or
  • the main carer for an older or disabled person.
  • Even if you feel healthy, you may still be at increased risk of seasonal flu.  The free seasonal flu vaccination is recommended if you have:
  • a heart problem
  • a chest complaint or breathing difficulties including, bronchitis, emphysema
  • a kidney disease
  • lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
  • a liver disease
  • had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
  • diabetes
  • a neurological condition e.g. multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
  • a problem with, or removal of, your spleen e.g. sickle cell disease.
  • If you are pregnant you will also be offered the flu vaccination this year. This is because the H1N1 virus will still be circulating this winter and pregnant women who catch this strain are at an increased risk of severe disease and flu-related hospital admissions.
  • Contacts

    NDS Enquiries
    Phone: For enquiries please contact the issuing dept
    ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk