Time to care for yourself – get protected against flu

By on 26/11/2013 in News

flu jabBirmingham carers are being urged to become flu fighters this winter – to protect themselves and the people they care for.

The NHS offers registered carers a free flu vaccination, but last winter just 46% of carers in England took up the offer.

Now Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, is backing a campaign reminding carers that flu poses a serious risk to both themselves and the person they care for.

He said: “Every winter, over half of all unpaid carers miss out on a free flu jab, despite the fact that they're entitled to request one if they're the main carer for someone who's ill or disabled and whose health would be at risk if they fell ill.

“If a carer is struck down by the flu and becomes too ill to care, there may be no-one else who can step in and look after the person they care for. They could also pass the virus on to the person they care for, even if the person they look after has had a flu jab.”

Nicola Benge, Public Health Consultant for NHS England in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country, said: “As a carer, you want to do everything you can to help protect those in your care. However, last winter more than half of the carers in England didn't take the opportunity to have a free flu jab. Flu can knock even the healthiest people off their feet for a couple of weeks, making it impossible for a carer to look after the person in their care.

“People with health conditions such as severe asthma, diabetes, and chest and heart complaints are being encouraged to visit their local GP surgery now to have their flu jab, so we want to remind carers to book an appointment for themselves as well to get protected.

“It's not just about protecting the carer from getting flu, but also preventing them from passing the virus onto the vulnerable person they care for. Flu is a highly infectious disease which is easily spread from one person to another. Getting flu when you already have a long-term condition can lead to serious complications, and it can even be a killer.”

Unlike other medication for long term conditions, the flu jab is an annual one-off vaccine. The flu vaccine changes every year to fight the latest strains of flu, so even if you had a jab last winter you need another one this year to stay flu safe.

Nicola Benge added: “The flu jab is completely safe and doesn't carry the live flu virus so it can't give you flu. So please take the time to look after yourself as well as your loved ones and get a free flu vaccination at your local GP surgery.”

To arrange a convenient appointment to get your vaccination, you just have to contact your GP. It's quick, safe and free for those receiving a carer's allowance and those with long-term health conditions.

For more information, speak to your GP or local pharmacist, or visit www.nhs.uk/flu

Flu vaccinations are currently offered free of charge to the following 'at risk' groups:

  • people aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2013).
  • all pregnant women (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season).
  • children aged 2-3, who are eligible for a free nasal flu vaccination
  • people with a serious medical condition such as

i. chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis

ii. chronic heart disease, such as heart failure

iii. chronic kidney disease at stage 3, 4 or 5

iv. chronic liver disease

v. chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease

vi. diabetes

vii. a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)

  • people living in long stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality. This does not include, for instance, prisons, young offender institutions, or university halls of residence
  • people who are in receipt of a carer's allowance, or those who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill

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