Why is flu vaccination offered?
Influenza (usually referred to as flu) is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract (nose, mouth, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs). The symptoms are characteristically fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain and fatigue. Other symptoms include a cough, sore throat, blocked nose and diarrhoea.
For most healthy people, flu is an unpleasant but usually self-limiting disease with recovery generally within a week.
However, older people, the very young, pregnant women and those with underlying disease, especially chronic respiratory or cardiac disease, or those who are immunosuppressed, are at particular risk of severe illness if they catch flu.
How does flu spread?
Flu is passed between people through droplets created when someone with the infection sneezes or coughs. Infection can be spread by contact with surfaces e.g door handles which are contaminated with the virus. Flu spreads rapidly.
Why is the flu vaccination programme being extended?
- There were estimated to be 11, 000 deaths attributable to flu in 2012/13
- The best way to improve the prevention of flu is to increase the uptake
- Extending flu vaccination to children will reduce the spread of flu in the community. This can prevent cases of severe flu and flu-related deaths in older people and those who are in risk groups.
Are there side effects?
Serious side effects of the injected flu vaccine are very rare. You may have a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the jab, and your arm may be a bit sore where you were injected. Since 2014 a nasal spray vaccine is offered for people under 18years. This means no needles - instead it is a quick spray up each nostril.
Contrary to popular belief, the flu vaccine cannot give you flu as it does not contain the active virus needed to do this.
Should I be vaccinated?
Look at the next page 'Are you at risk?' to see if you are eligible for a free flu vaccine. Also, see the 'Child immunisation against flu' page for information about young people.
For more information visit: www.gov.uk/government/collections/annual-flu-programme