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Don't get knocked out by flu this winter

October 2016

You will probably have already seen signs or pamphlets saying flu jabs are now available.

It is a nasty virus that can strike us at any age, but as we get older sometimes our resistance to it can be reduced, meaning we will suffer more.

Flu is spread by droplets which have been produced by coughing or sneezing from someone who is already carrying the virus. It can also spread from contamination from the hands of someone who is infected. Symptoms usually show after around one to three days and people with flu can remain infectious for up to a week after the start of the symptoms.

Typical symptoms include shivering and also a fever, severe headaches, muscle aches and pains and a real sense of feeling weak, tired and unwell.

Flu is really to be avoided if we can, so it is great news that inoculations are available. A vaccine is very carefully controlled so people needn’t worry about catching flu from the vaccine. What a flu jab will do is stimulate your body to make antibodies to fight the flu if it attacks. That means that during the winter, when you are exposed to the flu virus, your body is all ready to attack it quickly and stop it invading the body. The flu jab should give around 70 to 80% protection against the virus for around a year.

However, the bad news is that one simple inoculation won’t counter every type of flu all the time. Flu comes in very many different strains and each year different strains seem to take hold. The World Health Organisation works hard to try and identify specific viruses that might cause a threat during the coming winter so that the best protection possible against these specific strains can also be offered.

Generally, flu jabs include protection against three types of flu virus:

  • A/H1N1 – the strain of flu that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009

  • A/H3N2 – a strain of flu that mainly affects the elderly and people with risk factors like a long term health condition. In 2016/17 the vaccine will contain an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 H3N2-like virus

  • Influenza B - a strain of flu that particularly affects children. In 2016/17 the vaccine will contain B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus

  • For 2016/2017 a fourth B strain of the virus has been included here...the B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus.

If you have already had flu this year, you can still catch another strain, so it is recommended that you still have the flu jab. And don’t think that taking lots of vitamin C will stop you getting flu...medical researchers have been unable to find any evidence that shows this is true.

Occasionally, a flu vaccine can cause a few minor reactions, perhaps a slight soreness near where you had the injection or even a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days. But in far the majority of cases, people suffer no after effects at all from the injection.

The flu vaccination is free for anyone over 65, but for all ages it is worth considering as flu really can knock you out.  Prices for the flu jab vary around the £10 mark at high street chemists, well worth the money compared with days of debilitating illness!



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