People with long term health conditions urged to protect themselves from flu

The NHS in the South East is reminding people with long term conditions that this year it’s more important than ever for them to have their free flu vaccination.

Research shows that if people get flu and coronavirus at the same time, they are more likely to be seriously ill or be admitted to hospital.

Catching flu is more serious for those with a long-term health condition. It can make the effects of their existing condition worse and can cause series complications. Long term health conditions which can cause issues alongside flu include diabetes, a long term respiratory, heart, kidney, liver or neurological condition, a weakened immune system and obesity.

An average of 11,000 deaths occur annually due to flu-related complications. Of these deaths, many were in people with underlying conditions.

Flu is a highly infectious illness which spreads rapidly, even people with mild or no symptoms can infect others. If someone has a long-term condition, they’re more vulnerable to the effects and could suffer more than most people if they catch it.

People with chronic heart disease are approximately 11 times more likely to die if they catch flu than individuals who have no other underlying health condition.

Dr. Raj Thakkar, Long Term Condition Lead for Hampshire and Thames Valley Strategic Clinical Network at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said:

“If you have a long-term health condition it is really important you have your free flu vaccination to protect yourself from the flu virus.

“This is because if you have diabetes, a long term respiratory, heart, kidney, liver or neurological condition, are immunosuppressed, morbidly obese or have problems with your spleen, you are more likely to experience serious complications from flu, like pneumonia, and end up in hospital.

“The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the flu.

“GP practices and pharmacies have worked hard to put social distancing and other measures in place so you can have the flu vaccination in a safe environment.”

People with a long-term health condition should have received a letter to invite them for their flu vaccination and can speak to their GP to arrange an appointment.

Retired Southampton resident Nick Carter said: “I’m a type 1 diabetic, have heart failure and recently got my flu jab at my local GP surgery. I had a letter through the post to say I was eligible for a free one so booked in. I don’t always remember to do it but this year I wanted to make sure I did as I was warned having Covid and flu together can be dangerous. It only took a few minutes and now there’s one less thing to worry about. I’ve had flu before and it was awful so I’m keen to do anything I can to protect myself from getting it again.”