All eligible residents and staff in care or residential homes, those living and working in supported care environments and those providing care in an individual’s own home are being urged to get their free flu jab and avoid being struck down with flu this winter.
For most healthy people, flu is an unpleasant but usually self-limiting disease with recovery generally within a week. Those receiving care whether it is in a residential care home or in their own home are extremely vulnerable because they are often elderly and frail, have underlying health conditions and are living in a closed environment where the virus can spread easily. Serious health complications, such as pneumonia can develop as a result of the flu and in these situations it can be life-threatening.
This year with Covid-19 (coronavirus) in circulation, it is more important than ever to ensure everyone protects themselves against what can be a nasty and even fatal virus. Whilst the flu vaccination won’t protect against Covid-19 it is critical in protecting the general health of the population, particularly those at high risk from Covid-19. Unfortunately many of the groups who are vulnerable to flu are also more vulnerable to Covid-19.
Flu symptoms can be very similar to those caused by Covid-19 creating additional anxiety for patients and stress on the healthcare system this year. This is why it’s advisable that everybody get the flu vaccine.
Outbreaks of flu often occur in health and social care settings where people tend to be more vulnerable to serious illnesses, and are in close contact with each other. As flu is so contagious, staff and residents are all at risk of infection. So, if you work or live in any setting where you are providing care to an elderly or vulnerable person make sure you get your flu jab. You can do this by making an appointment at either a local pharmacy or by contacting your GP practice.
Stephanie Zakrzewski, a Queen’s Nurse, and Nursing & Quality Manager at NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “When people live and work closely together flu can spread quickly amongst residents and staff. The vaccination will reduce the chances of getting flu and help stop the spread of the disease to those you care for; and ensure you can continue to help those you look after.
“Unfortunately for some people such as the elderly or those with a learning disability or long-term condition such as a lung problem, diabetes or a heart condition, it can affect these groups much worse and can mean hospitalisation or sometimes even death. This is the reason we are urging everyone living and working within the regulated care* sector to get protected and get vaccinated.”
Councillor Mustafa Desai, Executive Member for Adult Services and Prevention at Blackburn with Darwen Council, added: “I would encourage the staff and residents of all of our care homes to protect themselves and others by taking up the offer of a free flu vaccine this year. We know how vulnerable care home settings can be and if residents catch flu the consequences could be much more severe than in others adults. And of course this year it’s more important than ever to protect against the double threat of flu and coronavirus.”
People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away and is commonly thought to be spread mainly when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Symptoms can begin about 2 days after the virus enters the body meaning that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those people may still spread the virus to others.
Getting the flu vaccine is the single best way to protect against catching and spreading the virus – it is modified each year to be as effective as possible. Equally important is good hand and respiratory hygiene. This means if you cough or sneeze, do it into a tissue or the crook of your elbow, throw your tissue away and wash your hands immediately.
For more information visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu/
* Regulated care includes support and care at home, residential care and care homes with nursing and means the care providers are inspected and rated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Across Lancashire and South Cumbria there are over 800 providers of regulated care, employing 46,000 staff, more than the number of staff employed in the NHS in the region. The regulated care sector is part of the wider health and social care system across the region and works in partnership with the NHS, local authority and voluntary, community and faith sector organisations to provide the very best care for local people.