Influenza (flu) is now circulating across Wales, and the number of cases is increasing. The flu vaccine remains the best way to protect yourself against catching flu and vaccines are still available and offer protection.
Public Health Wales is reminding anyone from the age of six months with a long term health condition, or pregnant, or aged 65 or over, to get protected against flu with a free NHS vaccination if they haven’t had one yet this winter.
If you think you might have already had flu this winter, but are eligible for a free NHS vaccine and missed your vaccine this season, it is still advisable to get the vaccine as it will help protect against other flu strains.
If you think you have flu the advice is to drink plenty of fluids, take paracetamol or ibuprofen and avoid contact with vulnerable individuals while you have symptoms, which usually resolve in about a week. Most people do not need to visit their GP.
People who are concerned that their symptoms are worsening should call their GP or NHS Direct Wales for advice and should not go to A&E unless advised to do so. Your flu vaccination should be delayed until you are feeling a bit better and your temperature has settled down.
To help reduce the chances of flu spreading, people should:
- Catch it: always cough or sneeze into a tissue
- Bin it: dispose of the tissue after use
- Kill it: then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to kill any flu viruses
People with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease, neurological conditions such as stroke and mini stroke, respiratory problems like COPD and those whose spleen doesn’t work properly, those who are aged 65 and over and pregnant women, are more likely to contract infections such as pneumonia if they catch flu. So they should seek advice from their GP surgery as antiviral medicine may be prescribed to help.
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said:
“Flu can be very serious and every year people in Wales are admitted to hospital or intensive care units with flu. Last year in intensive care units in Wales there were 74 patients with confirmed influenza.”
“Vaccination is the single best way to protect against catching flu, and it also helps reduce the chances of spreading it. It is not too late to get a flu vaccine, so if you have a long-term health condition, are pregnant or aged 65 or over and haven’t had your flu vaccine yet this winter, get in touch with your GP surgery or community pharmacy and make sure you have it as soon as possible. Children who were aged two or three years old on 31 August 2017 are also eligible for a nasal spray flu vaccine at their GP surgery.”
“Frontline health and social care workers are also advised to have the flu vaccination to protect themselves and the people they care for.”
Further advice is available from the NHS Direct Wales website at www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk or on 0845 46 47.