Diabetic patients and other patients in ‘at risk’ groups’ urged to have free Flu Vaccine

With the festive and New Year period upon us, GPs and Pharmacists are still urging the public to have the flu vaccine.

Although the temperatures are generally mild, the Flu virus is circulating, and people who have not been vaccinated will continue to be at risk of developing the unpleasant symptoms.  It’s particularly important for anyone in the higher risk groups – e.g. Patients with diabetes; kidney disease; anyone whose immunity is reduced, for example cancer patients; all patients aged 65 and over and also pregnant women; 2 and 3 year olds and children up to school year 5 are also urged to have the free vaccine.

Patients with diabetes for example, are more at risk of developing serious complications arising from a flu infection. Complications can include pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, brain and muscle tissues and even multi-organ failure.

Clinicians advise that even patients whose diabetes is well managed should still have the flu vaccine. Individuals with diabetes are at much greater risk of developing potentially life-threatening complications if they develop flu than people with no underlying health conditions.

Elevated blood glucose levels, which occur as a natural response to fighting infection, can if left untreated become a serious risk to diabetic patients.

Not only can high blood glucose cause symptoms such as tiredness and increased thirst and make it harder for the body to fight infection, it can also increase ketone production, which prevents other areas of the body from functioning properly.

Symptoms of rising ketone levels include vomiting, abdominal pain and shortness of breath. These could be disguised by the flu infection and risk going untreated, which could lead to coma and even death in extreme cases.

Liz Mearns, NHS England Medical Director for South West said:  “It really is important for people with diabetes to make sure they have the free flu vaccine. Having the vaccine is the best way of protecting yourself from contracting the flu virus, and to minimise the risk of developing more serious complications.”

Patients with diabetes can have the vaccine free of charge, via their GP surgery or local community pharmacy. Patients should have the vaccine as soon as possible before the flu virus takes more of a hold in the community.