Flu jab: Vaccination begins
For only the fourth time in 25 years the composition of this season's flu vaccine remains the same
What is flu?
Influenza, commonly shortened to flu, is a highly infectious respiratory illness caused by influenza A, B or C viruses. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring. The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract.
Flu symptoms hit suddenly and severely. They usually include fever,headaches and aching muscles, and you can often get a cough and sore throat at the same time. ?Antibiotics won?t help treat flu because it?s caused by viruses and not bacteria.
Flu spreads when people come into contact with droplets and then touch their nose, eyes or mouth as this is where the flu virus can gain entry to the body.
In the wake of the 2009 swine flu pandemic a national public health campaign was launched with the simple message: "Catch it. Bin it. Kill it." This advice still stands and one of the best ways to avoid any type of flu is to practise good hand and respiratory hygiene. This includes using disposable tissues to catch any droplets when coughing or sneezing and to dispose of these afterwards. People should then wash their hands using soap and water to remove the virus and stop it spreading as the virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours.
Annual flu jab campaign
Flu immunisation has been recommended in the UK since the late 1960s, with the aim of directly protecting those most at risk. In 2000, the policy was extended to include all people aged 65 years or over. Last year it was extended again to include all pregnant women.
Anyone can catch flu but some people are more at risk than others. The seasonal vaccine gives 70 to 80% protection against infection with the flu virus.
For most people influenza infection is just a nasty experience, but for some it can lead to more serious illnesses. The most common complications of influenza are bronchitis and secondary bacterial pneumonia. These illnesses may require treatment in hospital and can be life threatening especially in the elderly, asthmatics and those in poor health.
The Department of Health says even if you feel healthy you should definitely consider having the free seasonal flu vaccination if you have:
? heart disease
? lung disease, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD - includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema)
? kidney disease
? lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
? liver disease
? had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
? neurological condition, for example multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
? problems with your spleen, for example sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
Almost everybody can have the vaccine, but you should not be vaccinated if you have had a serious allergy to the vaccine in the past, or if you have a serious allergy to hens? eggs.
For most people one dose of vaccine is all that?s needed, however, there are certain groups where two doses are recommended. ?The HPA says these include children over six months but under 13 who have never received any flu vaccine before or people who are immuno-compromised. ?