It’s not too late to get a flu jab this winter.
That’s the message from health chiefs to vulnerable people who could be knocked sideways by winter bugs.
Flu is currently spreading across Europe with Britain said to be suffering from its worst flu season for seven years.
The country has been hit by Australian flu, French flu and now Japanese flu.
In the past week 35 Britons have died, bringing the death toll this winter to 149 – triple that of the same period last year.
An estimated 8.3 million people, 15% of the population, have had symptoms in the past week.
Prof Paul Cosford, of Public Health England, said: “Our data continues to show more people are visiting GPs with flu symptoms and we are seeing more people admitted to hospital with flu.
“In terms of hospital admission, this is the most significant flu season since the winter of 2010/11 and the preceding pandemic year of 2009.”
Statistics show a 2.5-fold rise of cases across England in the past two weeks, with 53.1 GP visits per 100,000 people.
A hundred cases per 100,000 would be considered an epidemic.
Huddersfield health chiefs have urged as many people as possible to get the flu vaccination.
People who have suffered a stroke or those with long-term health conditions such as COPD, bronchitis, emphysema or diabetes and other long-term health conditions are eligible for a free flu jab through their GP or pharmacist.
People who aren’t eligible can pay for the vaccination at most pharmacists – prices vary between £5 and £12.
Dr Steve Ollerton, local GP and Clinical Leader of NHS Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Pregnant women and young children are also eligible for the free flu vaccine.
“For mums-to-be the flu jab is the safest way to protect you and your baby against flu and you can have it at any stage of pregnancy, however fit and healthy you might feel.
“For young children aged two to eight the flu vaccine is not an injection, just a quick nasal spray.
“Getting young children vaccinated against the flu is another way of protecting vulnerable adults as children are ‘super-spreaders’ of the virus.
“Last year’s flu vaccination programme reduced the risk of flu in children who received the vaccine by 65%.”
If you’re in an at risk group then your GP should have already contacted you about the flu jab so if you’ve not had it already, please book an appointment to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“There’s still time to help protect yourself from flu this winter, and there are other things you can do to help protect others.”
Dr David Kelly, local GP and Chair of NHS North Kirklees CCG, added: “If you’re one of the many people who’ll catch flu or a bug such as norovirus this winter then you can reduce the risk of it spreading to others by taking care of yourself at home.
“You should drink plenty of fluids, take paracetamol for a fever or aches and pains, eat plain foods (if you feel like eating) and get plenty of rest.
“Flu and winter bugs usually clear up by themselves in a few days but you should seek medical help if your symptoms are continuing to get worse.”
For information and advice about the flu, norovirus and hundreds of other health conditions, take a look at NHS Choices, the UK’s biggest health website: www.nhs.uk
Even if we do take care of ourselves at home, most of us cannot avoid contact with others altogether but there are things we can do to help prevent flu bugs spreading.
Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch a cough or a sneeze. Bin the tissue and wash your hands well with soap and water, or use a sanitiser gel, to kill the germs.
By taking just a few simple steps, we can all help to slow down the spread of flu and other bugs this winter.