Public health officials in Brighton and Hove have urged pensioners and frontline health and social care staff to have a free flu jab.
Brighton and Hove’s director of public health Tom Scanlon said that it was the best way to avoid catching and spreading the potentially fatal condition.
Brighton and Hove City Council said: “More than 11,000 Brighton and Hove residents aged 65 and over risk catching seasonal flu this winter if vaccination rates match those of last year.
“Over the flu season last year at least 13 residents were admitted into intensive care in the city’s hospitals with the highly infectious disease which compares to 904 nationally.
“No one died locally from flu although nationally there were 98 deaths.
“For many, the symptoms, which include fever, headache and aches and pains, can be quite mild but for some groups such as those aged 65 and over the disease can lead to hospitalisation, disability and even death.
“Older residents are being urged to contact their GPs to take up the free jab because the best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having a vaccination before the flu season starts.
“Most people that have the vaccine will not get flu and the side effects are generally mild and can include slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards.
“Around 24,700 of the 35,800 residents aged 65 and over in the city were vaccinated last year.
“Increasing numbers of health and social care staff in contact with residents aged 65 and over are becoming vaccinated with the numbers rising 14 per cent to 313 last year.”
Dr Scanlon said: “Influenza can be a very serious illness and for some people such as those aged 65 and over it can lead to serious illness, hospitalisation and even death.
“The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by taking up the offer of a free jab before the flu season starts.
“This offer is for those most at risk of flu including those aged 65 and over as well as frontline health and care workers in contact with this age group.
“Flu is preventable and I would strongly advise those in target groups to contact your surgery to arrange for your free flu jab.”
Preston Park GP Katie Stead, who is promoting the flu jab for the Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The flu jab is free for residents aged 65 and over and care workers so why not take advantage of it.
“The vaccination could prevent you from having a nasty illness, going into hospital and passing on a nasty illness to friends and family.
“It’s easy, only takes minutes and all GP surgeries provide it through either appointments or surgeries where you can just turn up.
“It’s a myth that the jab gives you flu and that the jab is not effective in preventing flu. It is effective.”
Bridgett Dubeau, 72, who manages a sheltered housing scheme in Brighton, said: “I was born in January 1942 during the Second World War and I started having flu as a child.
“This was proper flu … you know, flu that knocks you out. Not every winter but most winters.
“You want to lie down in bed and not move but your body aches because the pressure on the bed makes your limbs ache.
“You have not got the energy barely to go to the toilet and you’re running a fever and you don’t know what to do with yourself.
“If there was a £10 note on the floor you could not pick it up.
“I suffered with the flu every year and sometimes twice a year. And then when I was 60 I started working in sheltered housing so the doctor suggested I have a flu jab and since then I have never had flu.
“I must say even colds are better. I don’t get so many colds. You don’t want to get flu and the fact is that the older you get it could kill you.
“I must admit the last time I had flu I wouldn’t have minded if I had died because I felt like death.”
Harold Williams, 78, from Rottingdean, is a double leg amputee and has had two heart operations that make him particularly prone to serious problems if he caught the flu.
He said: “I have the flu jab every year now because I daren’t catch the flu. The worst thing that can happen to me after everything else is to get the flu. I avoid the flu like the plague.”
The full list of people being urged to have the free flu vaccine are
- everyone aged 65 and over
- everyone under 65 years of age who has certain medical conditions, including children and babies over six months of age
- everyone who cares for an older or disabled person household contacts of anyone who is immunocompromised
- all pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy
- all two, three and four-year-old children
- all children in primary school and years 7 and 8 in pilot areas around the country
- everyone living in a residential or nursing home
- all frontline health and social care workers
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