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“Aussie Flu could kill this year unless we get protected”

An East Lancashire GP is urging people to get vaccinated against flu this year as evidence of an unprecedented surge in flu cases in Australia may be heading our way.

This year, Australia has seen higher cases than for many years before and these have started earlier than the usual flu season. We usually see the same pattern here in the UK during our winter season.

Dr Pervez Muzaffar, a GP from Darwen and a clinical lead at Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) said:

“Flu can kill and it will kill people this year unless we act soon.

“The flu vaccination is the only way to prevent it from spreading in the community, especially to our older more vulnerable residents. Our children need to be vaccinated as they are the main spreaders of the virus.

“The cases in Australia are extremely worrying – even higher than two years ago when we experienced a similar epidemic. Many GPs are concerned that people will die this year unless we protect as many people as we can.”

Consent letters about flu vaccinations are sent to all eligible patients and primary schoolchildren in September and flu clinics are usually held in October. Every healthy child between two and 11 in England will be offered the nasal spray vaccination.

Most surgeries already have displays up in their waiting rooms urging patients to get protected.

The flu virus can cause a sudden high temperature, headache, general aches and pains, tiredness, sore throat, coughing, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhoea, exhaustion and a general feeling of unwell.

The uptake of the flu vaccination in East Lancashire has risen over the last couple of years but it still way below the 60 per cent needed to protect the whole community.

Dr Muzaffar, said: “For most people flu isn’t pleasant but one that they fully recover from quite easily. However, there is a much greater risk that flu will lead to serious complications in others depending upon circumstance.

“We encourage pregnant women, whatever their stage of pregnancy, the over 65s and anyone with any chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and chronic heart disease to get the vaccine as soon as possible. For individuals in these at risk groups who still haven’t had their vaccine it is vital to take this seriously and act now.

“The flu vaccination is safe and cannot give people the flu as it does not contain live viruses but it can take up to three weeks to work so don’t delay.

“We have seen an increase in the flu vaccine uptake last year and hope this trend continues to protect the community from flu. Thanks for the support and response we get from our community.”         

Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen said: “This year it is going to more important than ever to get as many of us vaccinated against flu as possible. Each year, the northern hemisphere countries tend to get flu strains that have been virulent in the south in their previous ‘flu season’.

“This year, Australia has seen one of its worst flu epidemics for years (in their winter -our summer)- it also arrived and  peaked earlier than most previous years over the past decade- so there is a very real chance that we will see this in December/January February in the UK.

 You are eligible to receive a free flu vaccination if you:

  • are 65 years of age or over
  • are pregnant
  • have certain medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes
  • are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
  • are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill

All primary school children aged between 2 and 10 years of age are also eligible.

Children aged 2 and 3 will be given the vaccination at their general practice, usually by the practice nurse whilst children in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 will be offered their vaccination in school. Children up to the age of 17 with a long-term health condition such as diabetes are also eligible for the vaccination.

Contact your GP surgery to book a flu vaccine or visit www.nhs.uk/Service-Search to find your local pharmacy.”