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Words definitely can hurt us... don't take a chance with flu; IT is that time of year again. Chief Reporter Craig Thompson finds out why health bosses will be pushing extra hard this year to make sure people have their flu jab.

WITH winter creeping up on us again many people will be considering getting their annual flu jab over the coming weeks.

Health leaders across the North East are making an extra effort this year to drive their message home following last year's flu vaccine failings. Medics are urging people not to be put offand to make sure they are protected this winter season. They say those who qualify for a free jab, or spray for children, should take it up to ensure the most effective cover against flu.

Last year it emerged that the flu vaccine used offered little protection against the main strain of flu that was the most prolific in the UK.

The flu virus is constantly changing which can make it difficult to prepare a vaccine to offer maximum cover. That is why a new jab is needed each year, based on an "estimate" from top doctors predicting what strain the virus will be.

It is then up the World Health Organization to decide on the constituents of the vaccine for different parts of the world, usually around February each year.

The vaccines are usually complete by the end of August, ready to be distributed in time for the winter season.

But last year, strains of the virus mutated from the anticipated strain, leaving it too late to adapt the vaccine in time for the winter.

As a result, last year's vaccine worked for just 3% of people who had the jab and were exposed to the virus. Usually the vaccine is 50% effective.

The Department of Health wants to ensure that the elderly and other vulnerable groups are not deterred from having their jabs this autumn.

Professor Eugene Milne, director of Public Health for Newcastle, said: "It's important for people who are at most risk to get a flu vaccination about this time of year.

"Flu can be a dangerous disease for those with poor immune systems due to illness or pregnancy.

"It is really easy to get one from your GPs surgery or at any pharmacy near you. You can drop in to most pharmacies and get a flu jab often without an appointment."

Andre Yeung, the Pharmacist advisor for Newcastle City Council, said: "Last year our pharmacies across Newcastle successfully provided large numbers of vaccinations for free to people all around the city.

"This made a huge contribution to winter health in 2014/15. This year we anticipate that even more people will access their NHS flu jabs through pharmacy. Often they will be able to do this in the evening or at weekends and with no need for an appointment.

"I would recommend that people 'think pharmacy first' and speak to their local pharmacist about flu this winter" Pregnant Catherine Guy, 28, received her vaccine from pharmacist Niamh Brophy, based at Sainsbury's in Heaton.

Catherine said "I think people Turn to Page 22 From Page 21 have got more aware of the need to get a vaccination since the swine flu. It's my first pregnancy and I want to do everything I can to protect me and the baby."

Yuri Wabuke, a pharmacist at Asda in Byker, said: "It's a convenient service. You get your jab done while you're doing your shopping, you can come in the evenings after work and its only going to take ten minutes out of your day."

His patient Adam Redshaw, 28, is diabetic.

Adam lost 10st and is now running four slimming world groups in Byker and Heaton. He no longer needs medication for diabetes but he still needs to have an annual flu jab.

Craig Davidson, 35, plans on getting the jab in the next few weeks. The South Shields call centre manager said: "I paid for it last year because I felt it just gave me some reassurance through the winter.

"My parents were hit by flu a couple of years ago and it's an awful thing to have. I know it does not offer 100 per cent protection but I like the way it is so readily available now.

"I just went into the supermarket, booked and appointment at the pharmacy counter and got the jab, it was that easy."

Researchers now say they are closer than ever to developing a vaccine to give life-long protection against any type of flu, after promising trials in animals.

Two separate US teams have found success with an approach that homes in on a stable part of the flu virus.

That should remove the problem with current flu vaccines which must be given anew each year because of the mutating part of the virus.

Studies are now needed in humans to confirm that the method will work.

In the meantime, experts in the North East say people should continue to receive an annual flu jab because vaccination is still the best way to protect yourself against infection.

Who should get it? Those eligible to receive a free flu jab (or spray for children) include: People aged 65 or over | Pregnant women | Two to four year old children and |primary school children in years one and two People with certain medical con-|ditions -chronic heart disease, asthma or diabetes.

People living in a long-stay resi-|dential care home or other long-stay care facility People receiving a carer's allow-|ance/who are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if they fall ill Healthcare workers with direct |patient contact, or a social care workers What is flu? Flu usually hits in the winter, which is why it's sometimes called seasonal flu.

It's a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly.

Colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat.

A bad bout of flu can be much worse than a heavy cold.

The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.

Healthy individuals usually recover within two to seven days, but, in some cases, the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death.

Flu can affect anyone but is most dangerous for people aged 65 and over, people who have a serious medical condition and pregnant women. If you have a long-term health condition the effects of flu can make it worse even if the condition is well managed and you normally feel well.

If you are in one of these groups, you're more vulnerable to the effects of flu and could develop flu complications, which are more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

The lowest uptake of the vaccine is with pregnant women and adults of working age with a long term condition and people in these groups should get a free flu jab as soon as they can.

What is a long term condition? A long term condition means things like A serious heart complaint | A chest complaint or breathing |difficulties, including asthma, bronchitis and emphysema Serious kidney disease | Diabetes | Lowered immunity due to disease |or treatment such as steroid medication or cancer treatment If you have had a stroke or a tran-|sient ischaemic attack (TIA) If you have a problem with your |spleen or you have had your spleen removed Your GP may also advise you to |have a flu jab if you have serious liver disease or a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy or learning disability.

Why is it so important for pregnant women? Pregnant women should have the flu jab, regardless of the stage of pregnancy they have reached.

Pregnant women are more prone to complications from flu that can cause serious illness for both mother and baby.

When you're pregnant it is natural that your immune system is suppressed so this makes you more vulnerable to the flu virus.

Carers and the flu jab The flu jab is also free for people who are fit and well but who are carers or work with vulnerable people that you might pass the virus on to.

Where can I get the Flu jab? You can go to your GP but you don't have to -there are lots of alternatives. There are 65 pharmacies across Newcastle where you can get the jab without going to the doctors and often you can just drop in without an appointment.

You can even get your jab done at the same time you do your shopping. Pharmacies in ASDA, Sainsbury and Tesco will all give you the flu jab for free if you are eligible.

Even if you are not in these categories you can pay a small price and get the jab anyway if you're worried about it.

What about children? Children under the age of seven are also eligible for the free jab but you need to check with your doctor first as they may get it through school.

There are different ways for children to receive the vaccine, they might need it as a nasal spray instead of an injection which is very quick and painless.

How does the flu vaccine work? The injected flu vaccine contains inactivated, or killed, strains of the flu virus and therefore cannot cause flu. The nasal spray flu vaccine for children contains live, but weakened forms of flu virus but again this vaccine does not cause flu. The flu virus in both the injected and nasal spray vaccine is grown on fertilised hens' eggs so anyone with an egg allergy should have an alternative egg-free vaccine.

And the results... How effective is the flu jab? No vaccine is 100% effective, however, people who have had the flu jab are less likely to get flu. If you do get flu despite having the jab, it will probably be milder than if you haven't been vaccinated.

The flu jab does NOT give you flu - this really is an urban myth.

It's my first pregnancy...I want to do everything I can to protect me and the baby

CAPTION(S):

Rumours it can cause illness and talk of last year's 'failure' may put people offgetting the flu jab this year. But doctors say it's still important for vulnerable groups to get the vaccination

Pharmacist Yuri Wabuke from Asda pharmacy in Byker with patient Adam <BRedshaw

Pharmacist in Sainsbury's in Heaton Niamh Brophy and the pregnant Catherine Guy

Youngsters are given a spray instead of an injection
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 23, 2015
Words:1733
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