People living in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire are being urged to protect themselves and their families over the next few days to avoid coming down with a festive dose of flu.
While more people over the age of 65 have got their flu jab than this time last year – health leaders in the region have warned of an increased risk of flu while the country celebrates Christmas, Hanukah and the New Year.
As flu levels ramp up, alongside fresh calls for the public to get protected, Public Health England (PHE) have activated the Catch It, Bin It, Kill It campaign, to help prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease.
The latest surveillance data from PHE shows that GP consultations for Influenza-like Illness have risen by 24 per cent during the last week.
Flu can take its toll on anyone, so anyone can benefit from getting a jab, but those aged over 65, young children, pregnant women or those who have underlying medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to complications requiring hospital care.
NHS teams in GP surgeries, A&E departments and hospital wards are already seeing the number of people coming forward for treatment increase, with some schools and care homes also reporting suspected outbreaks.
Current evidence shows that vaccinations available this year are well-matched to the main strain of flu circulating, so getting your jab – or nasal spray for children – offers the best possible chance of avoiding missing out on festivities.
But concerns remain for those who have yet to protect themselves or their children, who can spread the virus from schools and nurseries to family members even if they don’t succumb to symptoms themselves.
Dr Ian Orpen, Chair of the BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Board, said: “Christmas is just around the corner and nobody wants to spend time being poorly over the festive period, so please – if you haven’t already done so – take some time this week to get a flu jab and protect yourself, your children and your family from what can be a really nasty illness.”
Dr Michael Marsh, South West Medical Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “We know that children are ‘super spreaders’ of flu, particularly around the holiday season when they’re more likely to see elderly relatives. That’s why the NHS pays for vaccinations for all these groups, and this year we’ve stocked up more doses than ever. So our message is simple: don’t miss out on your free NHS flu jab this year and make it a Christmas to remember.”