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Get yourself vaccinated against the effects of flu

​​Dr Shelagh McCormick warns about the dangers of flu.
Devon GPs are warning about the dangers of flu and urging people to get their jab.

For healthy people flu is often worse than a cold – but for some, the effects are even more extreme.

Older people, very young people, pregnant women and those with underlying disease, particularly chronic respiratory or cardiac disease, or those who are immunosuppressed, are at particular risk of severe illness if they catch flu.

Dr Shelagh McCormick, Devon GP and clinical commissioning group governing body member, said: “Each year the NHS prepares for the unpredictability of flu, and it’s really important that people are vaccinated.

“The flu vaccine is the best protection we have against such an unpredictable virus.
People really shouldn’t put off getting it. 

“Those at risk qualify for a free vaccine, because they are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu. 

“Sadly, many end up in hospital, and in some cases this can lead to death. So for those who are eligible, it’s free because you need it. I’d urge these people to have the jab now.

“The at-risk groups include people with health conditions, even those that are well managed, such as asthma, diabetes, heart, lung, liver or renal diseases, those with weakened immune systems, and older people and pregnant women.”

The best time to have the vaccine is in the autumn, from now till early November. People who have flu can help to stop the spread by avoiding unnecessary contact with other people while infectious.

Dr McCormick added: “There’s usually no need to see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms.

“For the majority of normally healthy adults flu is unpleasant and inconvenient, and they will usually begin to feel better within a week. The best advice for treating flu in healthy people is to rest, drink plenty of fluids and take appropriate pain relief such as paracetamol.

“You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches if necessary. Stay off work or school until you're feeling better. For most people, this will take about a week to 10 days.

“I would encourage all patients to check with their local practice about this year’s arrangements for flu vaccinations.”

How flu is transmitted
The flu virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.

These droplets typically spread about one metre. They hang suspended in the air for a while before landing on surfaces, where the virus can survive for up to 24 hours.

Anyone who breathes in the droplets can catch flu. You can also catch the virus by touching the surfaces that the droplets have landed on if you pick up the virus on your hands and then touch your nose or mouth.

Everyday items at home and in public places can easily become contaminated with the flu virus, including food, door handles, remote controls, handrails, telephone handsets and computer keyboards. Therefore, it's important to wash your hands frequently.

People can catch flu many times, because flu viruses change regularly and the human body won’t have natural resistance to the new versions.