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Now is the time to have a flu vaccine                                                     October 2008

Flu

NOW IS THE TIME TO

HAVE A FLU VACCINE

 

Winter is on its way and now is the time to consider having a flu vaccination.

Our age group was brought up with the idea that flu was a fairly common illness that is cured by a few days in bed.

Nowadays we know more, and doctors say flu can be a serious health risk, particularly if you are older or have other problems such as a heart or respiratory condition.

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.

The severity of the illness is partly related to the strain of influenza virus which is causing the infection, but whatever the type of flu, the symptoms generally cover a cough, a sore throat, a runny nose, high temperature, headache and muscle and joint pains. There can often be that feeling of “aching all over” and a complete lack of energy.

In otherwise healthy people these symptoms can become very uncomfortable and can last up to a week, but this is usually followed by a complete recovery. New strains, which can occur any year, can cause more severe illness and vulnerable groups can suffer a number of complications from flu.

Many people of all ages rely on an annual flu jab to help keep them healthy through the winter months, and everyone over 65 is definitely recommended to have a flu vaccination.

Each year the flu jab can be different. The batches are changed constantly to reflect the different types of flu viruses that are expected to reach the UK. Last year’s vaccination may not protect you again this year’s incidents. As yet, there is no single vaccine available that can protect you against all the different types of flu that can occur.

This year the World Health Organisation has recommended that flu jabs should contain protection against a strain of the influenza “A” virus which appears to be coming from the far east and Australia; and also against a strain of the “B” virus which comes specifically from the Beijing and Shangdong regions of China. Interestingly, this is only for the northern hemisphere and they recommend different vaccines for the southern hemisphere.

One important point medical authorities want to get across to people is that the flu vaccine does not contain any live virus, so it cannot cause flu. What the vaccine is designed to do is to alert the body to the threat so that when you encounter the virus, your body is far more prepared to fight the virus. You may still suffer from flu after a vaccine, but the symptoms will be very much reduced.

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.

You need to be vaccinated anytime between now and early November – after that a flu outbreak may already have started. Simply visit your local GP to find out all details.

If you do get flu, it can be detrimental to your recovery to struggle on. The main recommended treatment is to take painkillers such as paracetamol or aspirin to help relieve the headache and reduce your temperature and muscle pains.  You need to stay at home and keep warm and rest; this is probably all you will feel like doing anyway but this will also help you recover more quickly. You also need to drink plenty of fluid.

There are various websites that give information about the latest strains of flu. These include:

www.uk.ask.com

www.FluJabs.org

www.netdoctor.co.uk

 



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