HEALTH chiefs are urging as many people as possible to get a flu jab ahead of the winter months.
Andrew Foster, the chief executive of Wigan hospitals trust has moved to dispel claims that only older, vulnerable people are at risk from the virus, after it was revealed that 70 per cent of fatal influenza cases occurred among people aged between 15 and 64 last winter.
Mr Foster received his jab this week from Pauline Law, Deputy Director of Nursing and Patient Services who says most NHS staff are less at risk of serious harm from flu than patients who often have chronic illnesses or are over 65.
However, she also says staff themselves are still vulnerable. Seventy per cent of fatal influenza cases occurred among people aged between 15 and 64 last winter.
Ms Law said: “We are actively encouraging as many of our staff as possible to have the flu jab as this virus can be picked and spread by anybody. As health care workers we have a duty to ensure that we protect our patients, our own families, friends and colleagues and ourselves from this virus.
“We must always remember that quite a number of people can be at risk of becoming seriously ill should they catch the flu. The flu jab cannot give you flu. It’s impossible as the virus doesn’t contain any live viruses.
“Side effects are mild or often nonexistent and are usually a slight soreness around the site of the injection, occasionally aching muscles or slightly raised temperature for a day or two.
“Most people have no side effects whatsoever. Our priority is always to protect our patients and staff and at this time of the year, one of the things we can do to achieve this is to ensure that as many of our staff as possible are vaccinated against the flu virus.”
Doctors say a fall in temperature to below 12 degrees Celsius, plus common winter illnesses such as coughs, colds, flu and the winter vomiting bug Norovirus can have an impact on their health if they aren’t prepared.
Dr Richard Pebody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at the HPA, said: “The 2011/2012 flu season was one of the lowest on record – following two years of high flu activity.
“If you are in an at risk group you may already have been or will be invited to receive your flu jab by your GP If you haven’t, the HPA strongly recommends that all those in an at risk group accept the flu vaccination.”
Contact your GP for information on the flu jab.”