Don’t let the flu get to you this winter

By June Shannon Heart News   |   10th Oct 2019

Flu causes severe illness and death in Ireland every year, please get the flu vaccine it’s a lifesaver

The HSE has today (10th October) urged people in at-risk groups, which include all those aged 65 and over and people with long term conditions such as heart disease, to get vaccinated against the flu.

In addition to seasonal flu vaccination, some people in the at-risk groups and those aged 65 years and over also need to get the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against pneumonia. The pneumococcal vaccine is provided free from the HSE but is not required every year – most people only need to get it once. Those in at-risk groups should speak to their GP or pharmacist about it.

The flu vaccine is free of charge for all those in the at-risk groups. The vaccine and consultation are free for those with a Medical Card or GP Visit Card. Those without a Medical Card or GP Visit Card will be charged a consultation fee.

To get the flu vaccine, those aged 10 years or older in the at- risk groups may attend either their GP or pharmacist and those under 10 years should attend their GP.

“ People need to remember that flu causes severe illness and death in Ireland every year. That is why those who are most vulnerable to the complications of flu need to get vaccinated,"

Dr John Cuddihy, Flu vaccine lead , HSE

The HSE’s flu vaccine lead, Dr John Cuddihy, said that the flu vaccine was a lifesaver because flu can be a very serious and sometimes deadly disease, with potentially 1,000 flu related deaths in Ireland during a severe flu season.

“Recent national uptake figures indicate that 68.5 per cent of people aged 65 and over who hold a medical card or GP visit card received the flu vaccine during the 2018-2019 flu season, a substantial increase on last year when the uptake rate was 57.6 per cent.

“People need to remember that flu causes severe illness and death in Ireland every year. That is why those who are most vulnerable to the complications of flu need to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is the best defence against flu, yet every year many people in the at-risk groups fail to get vaccinated and so put themselves at risk of serious illness or even death.

“The vaccine reduces infection and associated illnesses and hospitalisation. Flu is very infectious and can cause potentially serious illnesses especially for older people, those who have a chronic illness, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. Seasonal flu vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy and also protects the baby. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus and all those at risk should get vaccinated as soon as possible this year to make sure that they are protected.

“The symptoms of flu usually develop over a matter of a few hours and include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and severe fatigue or tiredness. Flu is different from the common cold, which tends to come on more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal temperature.

“Flu is spread by coughing and sneezing so people should cover their nose and mouth with a tissue, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and wash their hands with soap and water as soon as possible to help prevent the spread of flu.

“Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter flu remedies to ease symptoms. People in high-risk categories should contact their GP if they develop flu symptoms” said Dr Cuddihy.

"At the Irish Heart Foundation we recommend all those with existing heart disease and those who’ve had a stroke, should be vaccinated to protect themselves,”

Bernadette Bergin, Information Nurse , Irish Heart Foundation

It is important for all those in the at-risk groups to be vaccinated again this year as the virus strains in the vaccine have changed since last year.

This year’s seasonal flu vaccine gives broader protection against flu than the vaccine used in previous years, because it protects against four of the common flu virus strains expected to be circulating this year based on advice from the World Health Organization. The flu vaccine used in previous seasons protected against three strains of the flu virus.

Seasonal flu vaccines are safe and have been given for more than 60 years to millions of people across the world. Reactions are generally mild and serious side effects are very rare.

Commenting the Irish Heart Foundation’s information nurse Bernadette Bergin said, “getting flu brings an increased risk for heart attack and stroke, especially in already vulnerable people. So, at the Irish Heart Foundation we recommend all those with existing heart disease and those who’ve had a stroke, should be vaccinated to protect themselves.”

The following groups of at-risk people should be vaccinated against the flu:

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