Why immunisation against flu is priority

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Doc Spot by Dr Chris Marshall of Salisbury House Surgery, Leighton...

It was back in 1976 that we saw the first recorded outbreak of Ebola virus. Since then (at the time of writing), across the whole world there have been 4,000 deaths.

Deaths attributable to influenza in Bedfordshire, alone, since 1976 is in excess of 5,000. The people of Leighton Buzzard and Bedfordshire should be more afraid of influenza than any other transmissible illness.

Statistically the people at greatest risk are all those over 65, but there are other vulnerable people. Darker, colder weather is coming and this cold is in itself a risk factor for death and ill health, as well as other respiratory viruses such as respiratory synctial virus, which peak at this time of the year. So it is not just flu to have concerns about in the winter months.

Influenza immunisation is a public health cost that we all contribute to. We should all partake in this programme. The immunisation is free. Interestingly it is the people who don’t have the jab who are costing us all more, because they will be the ones taking time off work, clogging up surgeries, A&E, hospital beds and the mortuary.

This is why flu immunisation is a priority in Leighton. Please help us, not only for your health, but also the knock-on effect on your family, friends and work colleagues.

Our four GP surgeries are all running flu clinics, and we hope to extend these into pharmacies to make it easier to get the jab across the community.

Who is entitled?

> Aged over 65, children aged 2,3, and 4

> Children and adults in clinical risk groups: Chronic respiratory disease, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, neurological disease and diabetes

> Immunosuppression

> All pregnant women

> Carers, health care workers and all people in residential homes – staff and residents should also be immunised.

Influenza is a highly infectious virus with an incubation period of one to three days and even makes fit people really unwell. The immunisation jab itself has as much side effects as placebo, but after I get my jab I try the sympathy game to get a cup of tea or coffee.