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Flu can endanger lives of over-65s and anyone with a long-term condition

​Dr Simon Kerr urges over-65s and anyone with a long-term condition to have their free flu jab
​People aged 65 and over risk serious illness, hospitalisation and death if they don’t get their free flu jab.

This is the message from Devon health professionals, who are urging older people to be vaccinated this winter because they are more likely to have an underlying health problem and a less-efficient immune system.

The same is true of people with long-term conditions such as diabetes (type 1 and type 2), low immunity, respiratory illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart, kidney, liver or neurological disease.

A vaccination, available from a GP practice or pharmacy, will greatly reduce the chance of getting flu. 

Dr Simon Kerr, a Devon GP, said: “We are talking about a disease that is highly infectious. The symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.

“It can feel like a heavy cold to most healthy people, often causing them to spend a few days in bed. 

“In people with underlying health conditions, however, a serious infection such as flu can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability and even death.

“Flu spreads easily from person to person. It will infect the respiratory system and can lead to pneumonia and other complications.

“The flu virus changes annually, which is why it’s important for people to be vaccinated each year.”

Flu is spread by coughs and sneezes that propel infected droplets of saliva or nasal secretions into the air which are then breathed in by others.

The disease is also spread by people touching surfaces that the droplets have landed on and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

This is why frequent hand-washing or using an antiseptic hand rub is so important during the winter flu season.