Family doctors across Hampshire and Surrey are urging people to protect themselves against a winter virus that can lead to serious health complications – seasonal flu.
The NHS seasonal flu vaccination programme starts in autumn, and the earlier in the season you have it, the better.
GPs from clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) – which plan and buy healthcare for their patients – are encouraging all people in the 'at risk' groups to make an appointment to have their flu vaccination from October, when GP practices start their annual flu clinics.
People are more at risk of complications from flu if they are:
Aged 65 years or older
Children and adults with an underlying health condition (particularly long-term heart or respiratory disease)
Children and adults with weakened immune systems.
This year, all children aged two and three years will also be offered the vaccination by nasal spray. While healthy children are not often badly affected by flu, they often help its spread to older people who are at much greater risk. Using a nasal spray means that they won't have to have a 'jab'.
The nasal spray flu vaccine is also used for those aged two to 18 years who are in an 'at risk' group.
If people are not in any of the 'at risk' groups then flu will usually clear up without further intervention within a week or so, with no wider potential health risks.
Chair of NHS North East Hampshire and Farnham CCG, Dr Andy Whitfield, said: "Any measure that helps prevent the spread of the flu virus is welcome, and I would urge anyone eligible for a flu vaccine to take up the opportunity.
"Flu can make even fit and healthy people feel quite unwell for several days, but people with other health problems may become so unwell that they need to be admitted to hospital. The flu vaccination is definitely worth having if you're offered it. The benefit is not only to you, but to other people who may become seriously unwell if they catch it.
"Good hygiene measures will also do much to reduce the risk of the virus spreading between people. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, regularly clean surfaces such as your computer keyboard and telephone, use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of used tissues in a bin as soon as you can.
"Simple measures like this, if we all do them, have the potential to make a significant difference to stop the spread of viruses and bacteria that can make us unwell at any time of the year.
"We all have a responsibility to reduce the spread of infections, which will very much ease the pressure on the NHS over winter."
A new vaccine is formulated every year to combat the most likely strains of the virus. This year's vaccine protects against:
H1N1 – the strain of flu that caused the pandemic in 2009
H3N2 – a strain of flu that affects birds and mammals and was active in 2011
B/Massachusetts/2 – a strain of flu that was active in 2012.
For more information on the vaccination, visit: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/flu-influenza-vaccine.aspx
For more information on seasonal flu, visit: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu/Pages/Introduction.aspx