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2 November 2010, 05:00
Pregnant women are being encouraged to have the flu vaccine on the NHS.
For the first time this year, mums-to-be can have the free vaccine, which now also protects against swine flu, along with all people who are deemed at risk. This is because it is predicted to be one of the most likely flu strains to be in circulation this winter. Pregnant women who catch the strain are at an increased risk of severe disease and flu-related hospital admissions. It can cause problems for both the Mum and their baby.
Health bosses at the NHS in both Suffolk and Norfolk are urging people to sign up for the jab now, before the prime flu months hit in winter.
Pam Rush from NHS Norfolk told Heart why it's important for pregnant women to get protected against both flu and swine flu, "It's like any flu virus - you can get high temperatures, feel generally unwell - it's not like having a cold, it really does have a serious effect on you."
She added, "You shouldn't forget about it as it is still one of the circulating viruses this year, but it's certainly not as much as a problem this year as it was this year. This virus seems to have an effect on pregnant women but if they are uncertain they can either speak to their midwife or their GP and they can go through it with them."
Michael Dennis, Head of Prescribing and Medicines Management for NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney said: "The seasonal flu vaccine changes every year to protect against all the common flu strains going around at the moment - and this year the commonest strain is still swine flu. But it is different to the swine flu jab you would have been offered earlier this year and now includes more strains of flu. The seasonal flu vaccine has been tested and is safe. If you have any queries, please talk to your GP or midwife."
People who had the seasonal flu vaccination last year will need a new seasonal flu jab this winter because the virus changes every year and the vaccine needs to match the latest version of the virus.
Dr Alistair Lipp, Director of Public Health for NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, said: "Having the vaccine is a really important part of keeping yourself well and staying well over the coming months. Many GP practices have already started flu clinics, so now is the time to contact your doctor and book your jab.
Flu can be severe, especially for those with existing health problems. Some people are more susceptible to the effects of flu and it can increase the risk of more serious illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis."
People with the following conditions are also being asked to consider having the free seasonal flu vaccine:
- A heart problem
- A chest complaint, breathing difficulties, including bronchitis or emphysema
- A kidney disease
- A liver disease
- Had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
- A neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
- A problem with your spleen or if you have had your spleen removed
Anyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccine should be contacted by their GP surgery. But if you have not been contacted, speak to your practice or to your pharmacist, or visit www.nhs.uk/winterhealth