As influenza is now circulating in communities in West Wales, health professionals are reminding people that they can still protect themselves through vaccination. Of high concern locally is the fact that more people are beginning to be admitted to hospitals in the region with complications resulting from catching the flu.
Dr Joanne McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Microbiology at Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen said:
‘We are now seeing cases of flu in our hospitals and in the community across Hywel Dda. While most people are aware of the horrible symptoms flu itself can bring, many are not aware of the potentially fatal complications of flu.
During or following a bout of flu, secondary bacterial pneumonia can develop. We often see people becoming very unwell with pneumonia, with some requiring intensive care and sadly some not recovering. Additionally, the risk of having a heart attack is six times higher when a patient has flu compared to when they do not have the virus, a shocking statistic that really highlights just how serious flu can be.
Older people and those with chronic conditions are more likely to be affected by flu complications, and it is therefore essential that these individuals do all they can to protect themselves.’
Rhys Sinnett, from the Hywel Dda Public Health Team said:
‘The main type of flu circulating in Wales currently is influenza A(H1N1). The latest information suggests that it is well-matched to the vaccine strain and therefore significant protection is expected from the vaccine.
We know there have been supply issues of vaccine this year, but you can still obtain your vaccine from local pharmacies and in a number of areas direct from your GP. We are just at the start of the flu season and it is definitely not too late to get yourself protected!’
The following groups are eligible for a free flu vaccination in the community. Those who:
• are aged 65 and over
• have a chronic heart condition
• have a chronic chest complaint, including asthma which requires regular medication
• have chronic kidney disease
• have chronic liver disease
• have a chronic neurological condition
• have diabetes
• have lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroid medication or cancer treatment
• have no spleen, or your spleen doesn’t work fully
• are a morbidly obese adult (BMI of 40 or above)
• are pregnant
• are living in long-term residential or nursing home