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First of all, this year there is a new vaccine available for children . It is called Fluenz and is given as a nasal spray. Ask your doctor’s practice for details on whether your child qualifies.
The following questions and answers were compiled with help from the National Pharmaceutical Association
Q1 What is ‘flu?
Flu is much more than a bad cold. It’s a virus that can make you very ill and in serious cases it can lead to pneumonia or even loss of life.
Q2 What are the typical symptoms?
Q3 How is it spread?
Flu is often spread through the air by coughs and sneezes. It can also be caught by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces. To avoid spreading germs to others and avoid picking them up yourself; always carry tissues, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze , dispose of the tissue after one use and clean your hands as and as often as you can. It’s also important to clean surfaces regularly to get rid of germs.
Q4 Who is eligible for a free ‘flu vaccination from their GP surgery?
A. Anyone who is over 65 or suffers from the following conditions which can make the flu much more dangerous: If you have heart disease, chest complaints, kidney or liver disease, lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroid medication, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Diabetics are also at risk or if you have a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy.
Remember if you are pregnant you are at greater risk of complications from the flu and having the vaccine could help you avoid catching the flu and protect your baby.
Finally, unpaid carers of any age including young carers are also eligible for the flu vaccine
Q5 How does the flu vaccine work?
A The vaccine contains ‘killed’ or ‘inactivated’ forms of flu viruses. This means that the viruses cannot reproduce and cannot give you flu, but your body’s immune system can recognise the virus and will be able to fight it if you are infected for real over the winter.
The vaccine takes around 10 days to work and will protect you from flu for around one year. You have to get vaccinated annually because the virus continually changes and develops new strains. This means that last year’s vaccine won’t protect you from this year’s flu virus.
Q6 Will the seasonal flu vaccine make me ill?
A The vaccine does not contain any live viruses, so it cannot give you seasonal flu. Some people get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the seasonal flu vaccine and your arm may feel a bit sore where you were injected. Any other side effects are rare and are minor compared with the risks associated with seasonal flu.
Q7 How effective is the seasonal flu vaccine?
A As with any vaccine it does not give 100% protection. In years where the vaccine is well matched to the circulating viruses about 80% are protected. Others who have had the vaccine but catch flu are more likely to get milder symptoms.
The seasonal flu vaccination will not protect you against the common cold or other winter viruses.
Q8 Is there anyone who shouldn’t have the seasonal flu vaccination?
A Most people can have the vaccine but you should not be vaccinated if you have had a serious anaphylactic allergy to the vaccine in the past, or if you have a serious allergy to hens’ eggs.
In addition not all of the seasonal flu vaccines available this year are suitable for children under five years of age. You should discuss this with GP or pharmacist beforehand.
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