Anyone with a long term health condition like asthma or diabetes is being urged to get the flu jab this winter to reduce their chances of ending up in hospital.
That’s the message from health professionals in Devon who say people with a long-term conditions are at greater risk of severe complications if they catch the flu.
Their message is backed by Devon man Darren Hall, who has long term health conditions.
Darren, who lives in Plymouth, needed brain surgery following a stroke eight years ago and now also has a weakened immune system.
He said: “Now I’ve got a weak immune system, I get the flu jab to save me from becoming really ill. I’ve been having the flu jab for the last eight years. It’s painless, you can even go in on a Saturday morning – it takes two minutes and I’ll always have it now. I recommend anybody to get the flu jab.”
Older people, children, pregnant women, those with long term conditions and diseases, particularly chronic respiratory or cardiac disease, or those who have weakened immune systems, are at particular risk of developing severe illness if they catch flu.
Alison Thomas, who provides care to Darren in his home, said: “I have the flu injection to protect me, my family and my service-users. If I were to contract flu, it would impact on my work.
“Flu would be dangerous for some of my clients as they are very vulnerable. Some have got breathing problems and heart conditions and that would have an impact of them if I carried the virus into their homes.
“It’s highly contagious and that’s why it’s really important to get vaccinated.”
Dr Shelagh McCormick, Devon GP, said: “Flu is a highly infectious disease and on top of any underlying long term health condition can easily develop into something very serious, and you could need to be admitted to hospital. Every winter the flu virus makes hundreds of people seriously ill in Devon.
“The Flu virus is easily spread within communities. It can be very unpleasant; especially for anyone who suffers with a long term condition such as diabetes, asthma, COPD, heart disease or kidney disease.
“Patients whose immunity is lowered due to disease or treatment, such as steroid medication or cancer treatment, are also at increased risk and should have the flu vaccine as soon as possible. We’re keen to ensure all eligible patients are vaccinated, especially those who are already in at risk groups.
“Those at risk qualify for a free vaccine, because they are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu. Don’t put it off – contact your GP or pharmacist to get the flu jab now. It’s free because you need it.”