Public Health Wales is reminding people with long term health conditions to protect themselves from flu this year.
Having some health conditions puts people at more risk of complications if they catch flu, including pneumonia. Conditions that put people more at risk include diabetes, heart, liver and kidney disease, stroke, mini stroke, and respiratory problems. People with chronic chest conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and moderate to severe asthma, for example, are around seven times more likely to die from flu than people without a health condition.
People whose spleen doesn’t work properly, adults who are very overweight (have a BMI of 40 or more), and people who have a suppressed immune system due to disease or treatment – such as cancer patients – are also more vulnerable to the effects of flu, and should have their flu vaccine.
Dr Anthony Gibson, a consultant physician at Cwm Taf University Health Board, said: “For those patients who are at higher risk of complications from flu, please protect yourself by having the flu vaccine.
“If you are worried or have questions regarding any aspect of the flu jab please speak to your consultant , GP or pharmacist.”
Last year, around half the people in Wales aged 6 months – 64 years of age eligible for a free NHS flu vaccination due to a long term health condition missed out on getting their flu vaccine.
Eighteen year old university student Gracie Macauley, who has Type 1 diabetes, explains why she never misses her flu vaccination: “If you have a condition like diabetes, you have enough health problems. Why would you risk making yourself more ill by catching the flu?
“You should do everything you can to look after yourself, because there can be serious consequences if you don’t. The flu vaccine offers the best protection from flu. For me and other people with diabetes, flu can be really serious. I’d be stupid to take that gamble.”
Flu is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms generally come on suddenly, and can include fever, chills, headache, cough, body aches and fatigue.
Flu is spread via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection, which can spread rapidly.