Kent County Council is supporting the NHS England and Public Health England campaign urging people to protect themselves and their families from the flu virus.

Some people face a greater risk of developing more serious complications if they become infected by the virus, which changes strain each year. Particularly vulnerable are pregnant women, people aged over 65 and people who suffer from diabetes; asthma; heart; respiratory and kidney conditions; and other illnesses where immunity from infections is reduced.

All children in school years 1, 2 and 3 (aged five to seven-years-old) will be offered the nasal vaccine through a schools based programme, while children aged two to four-years-old can get the vaccine from their GP. Immunising children ensures they have the maximum protection and also makes a significant contribution to reducing the overall spread of the flu virus.

Health and social care workers are also being encouraged to have the vaccination; helping them to stay healthy and also helping to reduce the spread of infection to those they treat and look after.

KCC Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark said: “Flu can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, or can make existing conditions worse, which is why it is vitally important that at risk and vulnerable people feel confident to come forward and get themselves the best defence against flu this winter.”

Seasonal flu occurs every year and is a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly. These include fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.

Healthy people usually recover within two to seven days, but for those more vulnerable, the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or can even be fatal.

Dr John Rodriguez, Public Health Screening and Immunisation lead for Kent and Medway said: “The flu virus is easily spread within communities.  It’s a lot more than a bad cold and can be very unpleasant. There are particular groups of people who are at greater risk. These include pregnant women and people with diabetes, asthma, COPD, heart or kidney disease or those with lowered immunity on steroid or cancer treatments. We strongly recommend that they have the flu vaccine as soon as possible.”

Flu is caused by influenza viruses that infect the windpipe and lungs; it’s caused by viruses and not bacteria so antibiotics won’t treat it. If, however, there are complications from getting flu, antibiotics may be needed.
Dr Michael Baker, PHE South East deputy director for healthcare public health, said:“Flu is a very serious illness and can be a killer – this is why we are encouraging people at risk to protect themselves from flu and get vaccinated. Children in particular need protecting which is why the vaccination has been extended to cover more children than ever before.

“Every year, thousands of children get sick and it is not uncommon for them to be admitted to hospital. The single best way to help protect your little ones, and the rest of the family, is to get them vaccinated.” 

The message from NHS England and Public Health England is that the best way to avoid catching and spreading the flu is by having the vaccination now before the flu season starts in the coming weeks. For more information about the vaccine, go to http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/flu-vaccine-questions-answers.aspx

You can also find advice on how to keep yourself and your family healthy and safe this winter at http://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/healthy-living/winter-health