With the colder weather still with us, so too is the flu virus which will continue to circulate in our communities for another few months. This is why it continues to be important for everyone over the age of 65 to have the flu vaccine; available from GP surgeries or local participating pharmacies for free.
The risk of serious illness and consequent hospitalisation from flu, is higher among those aged 65 years and older as they are more likely to have an underlying health problem, but also, as we become older our immune systems do not work as well. The best way for people protect themselves is to have the flu vaccination.
Flu is a highly infectious disease. The symptoms, that come on very quickly, include fever, chills, headaches, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. For most healthy people, a bad bout of flu is worse than a heavy cold usually requiring someone to spend a few days in bed. However, serious infections, especially in those with underlying health conditions, although less common, can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability and even death.
It is caused by viruses that are spread from person to person. They infect the respiratory system, where they can lead to pneumonia and other complications. The viruses are constantly changing and this is one of the main reasons why people need to be vaccinated annually.
Flu is spread by coughs and sneezes that propel infected droplets of saliva or nasal secretions into the air which are then breathed in by others. The disease is also spread by people touching surfaces that the droplets have landed on and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. This is why frequent hand washing or using an antiseptic hand rub is so important during the winter flu season.
The best way to avoid getting the flu is by having the vaccination. Doing so reduces the risk of developing the illness significantly.
Dr Liz Mearns, Medical Director based in NHS England’s Southampton office said: “It’s important that everyone over the age of sixty-five gets their flu vaccine as soon as possible. Older people are at greater risk of developing more serious illness if they succumb to a bout of the flu, which in turn could lead to pneumonia and other serious complications. Avoiding the flu is easy: Having an annual flu vaccination from your GP or local pharmacy, will provide the best possible chance of avoiding the disease and potentially other more serious complications”.