30th August 2013 - GP surgeries are preparing to give this season's flu jabs. Who is eligible for the vaccination and what do we know about the strains of flu likely to be in circulation this winter? Read our FAQs.
Wasn't flu mild last year and will that be the case again?
The 2012-13 flu season was a mild one but health authorities are planning for all contingencies this year.
Each year the NHS prepares for the unpredictability of flu.
Health authorities say it is important that we do not become complacent and continue to be as prepared as possible for the next high incidence flu season, whenever that may be.
Who should have a flu jab?
For most healthy people, flu is an unpleasant disease which they recover from in about a week.
However, older people, the very young, pregnant women and those with underlying disease, particularly chronic respiratory or cardiac disease, or those who are immunosuppressed, are at particular risk of severe illness if they catch flu.
Flu is also an unpredictable but recurring pressure on NHS resources.
The NHS offers free flu jabs to the following at-risk groups:
People aged 65 years or over (including those turning 65 by 31 March 2014)
All pregnant women (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season)
People with a serious medical condition such as:
Chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis
Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
Chronic kidney disease at stage 3, 4 or 5
Chronic liver disease
Chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease
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
It is also recommended that health and social care workers who have with direct contact with patients or clients should be offered a flu jab. This would include midwives, GPs, nurses, pharmacists and social care staff in care homes.
People who don't qualify for the free flu jab can still get it privately from their GP, some pharmacies or some employers.
During the 2012-13 flu season, 51.3% of people under 65 in at-risk groups had been vaccinated against flu in England, well below the target of 70%. For the 2013-14 flu season the target has been set at a "challenging" 75%.
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