The NHS in Oxfordshire 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.
Dr Ed Capo-Bianco, GP and Urgent Care Lead at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The flu is not the same as getting a cold. It can seriously affect your health and the risks of developing complications are greater for people within the ‘at-risk’ groups. Healthy individuals usually recover within two to seven days, but for some the disease can lead to a stay in hospital, permanent disability or even death.”
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.”
Notes and Resources
The flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition, including:
- respiratory conditions, such as asthma (needing steroid inhaler or tablets), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and bronchitis
- heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease or heart failure
- being very overweight – a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above
- chronic kidney disease
- liver disease, such as hepatitis
- neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
- a learning disability
- problems with your spleen, for example, sickle cell disease, or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or taking medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
All children who have long term health conditions should be offered flu vaccination from the age of six months.
There are approximately 7.1 million people under the age of 65 years old with a long-term health condition.
Chronic liver disease can affect the immune system and therefore people with this condition may be less able to fight off flu. Those with chronic liver disease are approximately 48 times more likely to die if they develop flu than individuals who have no other underlying health condition.
Chronic respiratory diseases make people more susceptible to the flu virus damaging their lungs. They are seven times more likely to die from flu than individuals without an underlying health condition.
Chronic renal disease can affect the immune system and therefore people with this condition may be less able to fight off flu. Those with chronic renal disease are approximately 19 times more likely to die if they catch flu than individuals who have no other underlying health condition.