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Seasonal 'Flu                                                 


What follows is general information and advice about 'Flu. For specific  up to the minute news of 'Flu Clinics this year please go to our news page


What is Influenza?


Influenza ('Flu) is an illness caused by the influenza virus. There are different strains of influenza virus. They are transmitted by coughing and sneezing. Symptoms of influenza include a high temperature (fever), muscle aches, cough, headache and extreme tiredness. (Up to date links are at the bottom of the page).


 Most people recover fully, but complications such as a chest infection or pneumonia develop in some cases. Complications are sometimes serious and even fatal in some cases. Complications are more likely to develop in the elderly and also in people with some underlying medical problems such as chest or heart conditions. Many people in the UK die each year (mostly elderly people) from the complications of influenza.


Each winter a different strain of the influenza virus causes an outbreak of influenza which affects many people. This is called seasonal 'flu. Vaccine is prepared by manufacturers under instruction from the Government as to which strains should be included in the vaccine (which itself is largely determined by strains circulating in the Southern Hemisphere during their winter season)



Go NHS Choices 'Flu Information page here

To download a general leaflet about 'Flu vaccination, click here




  Immunisation against Seasonal 'Flu


'Flu immunisation (the "'Flu jab") gives excellent protection against seasonal 'flu and lasts for one year.The vaccine is normally ready and given in October and November each year. It is made from the strain of influenza virus that is expected  in the coming winter.


Each year this is slightly different so a new vaccine needs to be made every year. You need a yearly immunisation to keep protected.






'Flu immunisation does not prevent other virus infections which can cause coughs, colds

and 'Flu-like illnesses. It protects only against the influenza virus that is expected

in the coming winter. The vaccine does not actually contain any living influenza virus.


This means that it cannot cause 'flu or any other infections. It is a coincidence

if you develop a cough or cold shortly after having a 'flu immunisation.

It usually takes up to two weeks for your body to develop full protection

against the influenza virus after the vaccine is given.





Who should be immunised against the Seasonal Flu virus  


The aim is to protect people who are more likely to develop complications from 'Flu.

Current advice in the UK is that you should be immunised

against the seasonal 'Flu virus each autumn if you:


-Children aged 2,3 or 4 years old


Leaflet here  with a detailed explanation of the nasal spray vaccine for children

Patients who:


-Are aged 65 or over.


-Have any chronic (ongoing) lung diseases.

(Examples include chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and severe asthma

 needing regular steroid inhalers or tablets. It is also recommended for any child

 who has previously been admitted to hospital with a chest infection.)


-Have a chronic heart disease

(Examples include angina, heart failure or if you have ever had a heart attack)


-Have a serious kidney disease.

(Examples include nephrotic syndrome, kidney failure, a kidney transplant)


-Have a serious liver disease such as cirrhosis.


-Have diabetes and are taking either insulin or tablets for it.


-Have a poor immune system or are a household member living with such a patient

(Examples include if you who are receiving chemotherapy or steroid treatment for more than a month

 or are taking drugs such as Methotrexate),


-If you have HIV/AIDS or if you have had your spleen removed.


-Have certain serious diseases of the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis.


-Live in a nursing home or other long stay residential care accommodation


-Are pregnant



In addition to the main 'at risk' groups of people listed above:


-You should be immunised if you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare

 may be at risk if you fall ill with influenza.


-Staff involved in direct patient care may be offered a flu jab from their employer.


-If you work in close contact with poultry you should be immunised.

This is a precautionary public health measure by the Department of Health.


Are there any side-effects from Seasonal 'Flu immunisation?


Immunisation against the seasonal influenza virus usually causes no problems. You may have a temporary mild soreness at the injection site.

Sometimes, it can cause a mild fever and slight muscle aches for a day or so. This soon settles and does not lead to flu or other problems.

Serious reactions have been reported but are rare. For example, a severe allergic response,

inflammation of nerves and inflammation of the brain are very rare reactions.



Who should not have the Seasonal 'Flu immunisation?


The following groups of people should also not be immunised:


    -If you are have a severe allergy to eggs (as the vaccine is made in hens' eggs).


    -If you have had a previous allergic reaction to an influenza virus vaccine.


   -If you have had a previous severe allergic reaction to neomycin, kanamycin, gentamicin, polymyxin B or  thiomersal,

     as some influenza virus vaccines may contain these in trace amounts.


The influenza vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccines; it is often given at the same time as the pneumonia vaccine.

It is also safe to give if you are either pregnant or breast-feeding.



Myths about 'Flu: Five famous "flu fictions" and the facts:


As the new vaccination season approaches, people often come up with ‘reasons’ not to have the jab. These are usually based on myths surrounding the disease and the vaccine. Here are some of them, with the facts explained:


Having flu is just like having a heavy cold


A bad bout of flu is much worse than a heavy cold. Flu symptoms come on suddenly and sometimes severely. They include fever, chills, headaches, aching muscles, as well as a cough and sore throat. So you are likely to spend two or three days in bed and if you get complications caused by flu you could become very seriously ill and have to go to hospital.


Having the flu jab gives you flu


No, it doesn’t. You may have a mild reaction to the jab but as the vaccine contains

inactivated flu virus it can’t give you flu.


Flu can be treated with antibiotics


No, it can’t. Viruses cause flu and antibiotics only work against bacteria.


Once you’ve had a flu jab you’re protected for life


No, you aren’t. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, so you need a vaccination each year that matches the new viruses. The vaccine usually provides protection for the duration of the flu season.


I’m pregnant, I shouldn’t have the jab because it will affect my baby


Yes, you should have the vaccine. If you’re pregnant you could get very ill if you get flu so you should have the jab whatever stage of pregnancy you are in. And having the jab may also protect your baby against flu during its early months of life when it’s too young to have the vaccination itself.






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