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  1. ITV Report

NHS warns serious flu outbreak could be on the way

An annual flu vaccine offers the best protection against flu viruses. Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire/PA Images

The NHS is encouraging all eligible groups to take up the offer of a free flu vaccine as the UK braces itself for a potentially serious flu outbreak this winter. It has already struck parts of the Southern Hemisphere.

Australia and New Zealand have had many more people diagnosed with flu this year, compared to previous years, and what happens there is generally replicated here in Europe and the UK."

– DR IAN ORPEN, BATH AND NORTH EAST SOMERSET NHS CLINICAL COMMISSIONING GROUP

Flu can be serious, even fatal, for some people. The following at-risk groups can get the vaccine free on the NHS, either at a pharmacy or their GP surgery:

  • Anyone aged 65 or over
  • Pregnant women
  • Children aged 2 and 3, or in their first 5 years of primary school (they have a nasal spray)
  • Anyone with a serious underlying health condition, such as asthma
  • Carers of disabled and / or elderly people
  • NHS workers
71%
of over-65s in the South West had a flu vaccine last year.

If you're not in an eligible group, you can pay to have the vaccine privately at a high street or supermarket pharmacy. Prices vary:

  • Asda - £5
  • Boots - £12.99
  • Lloyds - £10
  • Superdrug - £9.99
  • Well - £9

Flu strains change over time, so new vaccines are produced each year to match them. Therefore, you need a new flu jab each year to be effectively protected.

45%
of pregnant women in the South West had a flu vaccine last year. Flu can be serious in pregnancy.

Flu kills and we could save thousands of lives if everyone eligible got their free jab. With more people eligible than ever before and the vaccine available in more locations, people should protect themselves and those around them against this potentially deadly virus. Taking a few minutes to get the jab could save your life this winter.”

– PROFESSOR DAME SALLY DAVIES, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER
8000
deaths in England last year from flu or associated complications.

The NHS drive to encourage people to get vaccinated against flu is part of a wider campaign the health service is running with Public Health England called Stay Well This Winter.

Public Health England says the nasal spray vaccine is being offered "to more children than ever" this year.

Ensuring children get vaccinated is extremely important not only to protect them from flu but also to stop then spreading it to vulnerable groups they come in to contact with. For someone with a long term health condition like asthma or COPD, flu has the potential to turn very serious.

We want as many eligible people as possible to get their jab, as it is the best way to protect everyone from flu and minimise the burden on the NHS during the season when it faces the most pressures.

– Professor Paul Cosford, PHE’s Medical Director

For more information on flu and the flu vaccine, visit the NHS Choices website.