Amazingly we are already entering autumn and as a result that annual event. the Flu Immunisation Campaign, is looming ahead of us.
We can become a bit blasé about flu and flu injections, especially after a few years with a relatively low incidence of flu. We have been lucky the last few winters in that we have not had a significant outbreak in the area. However, the flu virus’s ability to transform itself allows it to get around our natural immunity and it is inevitable we will have a significant outbreak soon. It may be this year so it is just as important as ever you get immunised this year if you are in an at risk group. These groups are:
Anyone 65 or older.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) sufferers.
Asthmatics requiring inhaled steroids.
Children who have previously been admitted to hospital with a lower respiratory tract infection.
People suffering from chronic heart disease such as angina, previous heart attack, heart failure or atrial fibrillation.
People with chronic kidney or liver disease.
People who have had a stroke or mini stroke or who suffer from a chronic neurological disease such as MS.
Anyone whose immune system is suppressed due to either ill health or medication.
ALL pregnant women.
People without a spleen.
People who are morbidly obese, that is a BMI over 40.
Flu injections can be obtained at your GP surgery and some pharmacies and are free if you are in an at risk group. Contact your surgery to find out when they are running their flu clinics and make sure you attend.
Pneumonia is an infection in the tissue of the lung, and it can be caused by a variety of bacteria and viruses. One particularly nasty type of pneumonia is caused by a bacterium called Pneumococcus. If you are in any of the groups that should have a flu injection it is highly likely that you would also be eligible for a pneumococcal vaccine to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia. For most people only one injection is required to give lifelong protection, however, some will need a booster dose. Ask about this vaccination when you attend your GPs for your flu injection as the pneumococcal vaccination can be given at the same time. This particular vaccine is not available from pharmacies.
A few years ago the government also introduced vaccination against shingles. You can only get shingles if you have had chicken pox when you were younger; you do not catch shingles, the virus lies dormant in the body for many years after you have recovered from chicken pox and then, often when we are a little run down, wakes up and travels down a nerve to the skin causing localised pain and a chicken pox type rash. It can be quite debilitating, especially if we get it when we are of more advanced years.
The vaccine has been targeted at certain age groups since it was first launched. This year the shingles vaccination is available for anyone aged 70 to 74 who was born after 1st September 1942 and have not previously been vaccinated, it is available for people aged 78 or 79 who have not been vaccinated. The vaccine can be used even if you have had shingles, unlike chicken pox you can get shingles more than once; the vaccine won’t necessarily prevent you getting shingles but it will make it less likely and if you do get it it should be a lot less severe if you have had the vaccine. This vaccine can also be given at the same time as your flu jab at your GPs surgery so ask about this too when you are there and in the right age bracket.
I hope your injections prove painless and you avoid all of these nasty infections in the coming months.