Flu is highly contagious and can strike anyone. Flu is caused by a virus, not bacteria, so antibiotics won’t treat it. People are encouraged to get protected and have the vaccination, which is available in local GP practices.
Some groups – including pregnant women, young children aged two to four, carers, those with long-term health conditions like heart disease or breathing problems, and people aged over 65 – are more susceptible to flu and its effects, so it is particularly important that they are vaccinated. They can have the vaccine free of charge.
Dr Will Hynds, Chair at Kernow Local Medical Committee, which represents and supports GPs in the county, said: “The vaccination is our first line of defence against flu, which is unpleasant at best and a potential killer at worst. Flu can exacerbate existing medical conditions, lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and be deadly for older and more vulnerable people.
“I recommend that people in the ‘at risk’ groups and their carers have the vaccine at their local GP practice before the virus starts to circulate in the community as it gets colder and winter approaches.
Dr Hynds, a GP partner at Roseland Surgeries, added: “Studies have shown that the flu vaccine does work and will help prevent you getting the flu. It won’t stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary between people, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free, but even if you do get flu after vaccination it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been. The flu vaccines used in the national programme also have a good safety record.”
People should speak to their GP practice about how to access the vaccine there. Some surgeries offer dedicated flu clinics – often during evenings and weekends so people can fit having the vaccine around their everyday lives
The vaccine is administered by either a GP or a trained member of the healthcare team at the surgery, who can also offer aftercare, where necessary. Young children are vaccinated via a nasal spray – everyone else receives a quick injection. Vaccinating children has a double benefit: as well as protecting them from flu, it also protects others, such as grandparents and siblings, as children are much more likely to infect others.
Expectant mums should have the vaccine whatever stage of pregnancy they are in. Those who are pregnant could become very ill if they get flu, which could also be bad for their baby. Having the vaccine can also protect their baby against flu after they’re born and during the early months of life. Your GP or midwife will advise you.
Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include a fever, chills, cough, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.
People who are otherwise fit and healthy usually don’t need to see a doctor if they have flu-like symptoms and should self-care. At risk groups who display flu-like symptoms may wish to consider calling NHS 111 or their GP.