Thursday, 14th January 2016
Flu is a highly infectious illness that spreads very rapidly through coughs and sneezes of people who are already carrying the virus.
Flu immunisation (flu jab) gives you good protection from flu and lasts for one year. The vaccine is normally available in the autumn and is made from the strain of flu that is expected in the coming winter. In order to remain protected you need to have a flu jab every year.
Why it should be done by occupational health services?
Flu symptoms hit you suddenly and severely. They usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles, and you can often get a cough and sore throat at the same time. Colds are less severe, and usually start gradually when you get a sore throat and stuffy or runny nose. Flu is a much more serious illness.
Catching flu is a nasty experience for most of us. However, for some people it can lead to serious illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia and may require hospital treatment. Every winter, a large number of elderly people die from influenza.
A flu jabs main purpose of having it by occupational health services is to protect those who are most at risk of developing complications that can result from flu. You should have a flu jab if you are aged 65 or over, or if you have:
* a serious heart problem such as heart failure,
* a serious asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
* a long-term kidney or liver disease,
* diabetes, or
* a weakened immune system as a result of an illness such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or AIDS or due treatment, such as chemotherapy.
If you're the parent of a child (over the age of six months) with a long-term condition, speak to your GP about the flu jab. Your child's condition may get worse if they do catch flu.
If you're the carer of an elderly or disabled person, make sure they've had their flu jab. You should also get the jab yourself if their welfare is at risk (if you can't look after them) if you fall ill. Ask your GP for advice.
Special flu clinics are held each autumn, ask your GP or practice nurse for details. You are entitled to a free flu jab if you:
* are aged 65 or over,
* are a resident in a long-term residential care home,
* have diabetes,
* are having cancer treatment,
* have lowered immunity due to HIV or steroid medication, or
* have a long-term (chronic) condition, such as kidney or liver disease.
Flu jab for poultry workers
If you work in close contact with poultry you are also entitled to a free flu vaccination. This includes if you work in areas where poultry are kept for rearing or egg production purposes, you handle or catch live poultry, you sort eggs in poultry houses, or you slaughter or clean poultry.
Free flu vaccination is being offered to poultry workers because people who work in close contact with poultry may have a slight risk of catching bird flu if an outbreak occurred. If the bird flu and human flu viruses were to mix, a new flu virus could be made. A flu vaccination protects against human flu, reducing the risk of the viruses mixing due to a person having both human flu and bird flu at the same time.
The flu vaccine is being offered to eliminate this slight risk. However, the Department of Health have made it clear that this is a precautionary measure. It does not mean there is an increased risk of a bird flu outbreak in the UK. This risk remains low.
When it should be done
The best time to have a flu jab is in the autumn, between late September and early November. Don't wait until the winter when there's a flu epidemic.
The virus circulates every winter, usually over a period of a few weeks and, as a result, a lot of people get ill around the same time. In a really bad year, this can amount to an epidemic, but it's impossible to predict how much flu ther will be every year.
If you think you need a flu vaccination, check with your doctor or the practice nurse. If a occupational health service nurse visits you regularly, you can ask them. Alternatively ask your local pharmacist. Most doctors organise special vaccination sessions in the autumn. Details of your local health services including GP surgeries, occupational health services and health centres can be found by searching the local services database.
How it works
Your body starts making antibodies to the vaccine virus about a week to ten days after the injection and they help protect you against any similar viruses you then come into contact with.
Even though flu vaccinations will protect you against most flu viruses, they won't stop you catching the many other viruses that appear every winter. However, as flu is generally a more serious virus, it makes sense to get protected. The flu virus changes every year, so you need to have a flu jab annually to make sure that you are protected against the latest strain of the virus.
Modern flu immunisation does not usually cause problems. You may experience a slight soreness in your arm following the injection. Sometimes, it can cause mild fever and slight muscle aches for a day or so. There is no active virus in a flu vaccine so it can't cause flu. However, people sometimes catch other flu-like viruses, or very occasionally catch flu before the vaccine takes effect. Allergic reactions to the vaccine are rare.
When not to have the flu jab
You should not have the flu vaccine if:
* you have a serious allergy to hens eggs (very rare) this is because the vaccine is made from hens eggs,
* you have had a previous allergic reaction to a flu vaccine (rare), or
* you are healthy and under 65 (except if you work with poultry, or if you care for someone who is elderly or whose welfare is at risk if you fall ill).
If you are pregnant and in a high risk group you should talk to your GP about having the jab.
However, no problems have been reported in pregnant women who have had the jab. For people who are usually healthy, a flu jab is not necessary because it is an illness that is uncomfortable but not serious.
If you would like more information on having the flu injection conducted at your workplace or at home please contact JMHSS occupational health services on 01538 394270. We offer the flu injection at very competative rates and are able to offer lower cost per injection for group bookings.