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Get vaccinated to protect against influenza

The annual campaign to encourage people in eligible groups across Wales to have a vaccination to protect themselves from influenza (flu) was launched earlier this month.

The Beat Flu campaign, led by Public Health Wales, encourages those who need it most to get protection each year against influenza, a potentially dangerous disease.

Included in the eligible groups are pregnant women, people with certain chronic long term health conditions, everyone aged 65 and over, carers and frontline health and social care workers.

Children aged between two to eight years are also eligible as the vaccine programme for children is being extended again this year. The vaccine for adults is a small injection, but for children it is a simple nasal spray. Children aged between two and three years can receive the nasal vaccine at their GP surgery while those in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3 and 4 can get it at school.

Dr Kelechi Nnoaham, Director of Public Health for Cwm Taf University Health Board is urging all those who are eligible to have the flu jab.

Dr Nnoaham said: “I am very excited that I have had my flu vaccination and in doing so I feel I have made a contribution to protecting our patients.

“It is part of our ‘Cwm Taf Cares’ values that we are making clear efforts to put an important ring of protection around our patients and families.

“In taking the flu vaccine, every member of staff makes a meaningful contribution in this way.

“We want to reassure people that the vaccine is very safe and the evidence is compelling that it is effective. It really protects and we encourage children, pregnant women, people over 65 and under 65s among the ‘at risk’ groups to have the vaccination to protect themselves against influenza this winter.”

Public Health Minister, Rebecca Evans AM, reiterated it is vital that those most at risk take advantage of the free vaccine: “Influenza can be a life-threatening illness for people who are at risk due to their age, an underlying health problem, or because they are pregnant. Sadly, influenza kills people in Wales every year.

“Influenza spreads very easily. Extending the programme to more children this year will help protect them from catching flu, and will also prevent them spreading it to others in the community who may be very vulnerable. Last year’s children’s vaccine was very effective and it’s good to know that so many young people were protected.

“People can be seriously ill with influenza, and a flu vaccination is the best way to protect against it, so make sure you get protected soon, for your own and other people’s sake.”

The influenza viruses that circulate and cause illness each winter change and therefore each year the flu vaccine is changed to try and match the circulating strains, in order to give best protection.

While most NHS flu vaccines are given in GP surgeries, vaccination is also available for adults in many community pharmacies across Wales.

Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms generally come on suddenly, and can include fever, chills, headache, cough, body aches and fatigue.

The influenza virus is spread via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection. It can spread rapidly, especially in closed communities such as hospitals, residential homes and schools.

Find out more by visiting www.beatflu.org or www.curwchffliw.org or finding Beat Flu or Curwch Ffliw on Twitter and Facebook.