PEOPLE aged 65 and over in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are being urged to get their free NHS flu vaccine.

Vaccination is the best way to protect against this potentially serious illness.

Hywel Dda University Health Board is reminding older people that they are more at risk of complications if they catch influenza (flu) than the general population. Flu can be a serious illness, leading to complications like pneumonia, and every year people in Wales end up in hospital or intensive care units with flu. What’s more, last year, more than half of all confirmed cases of influenza in hospitals in Wales were in people aged 65 and older.

Latest vaccine uptake data shows that many older people in Wales – just over half of those aged 65 and over – have already had their flu vaccine this year. But those who haven’t had the vaccine yet this winter remain at risk, and are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible for the best protection.

Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda University Health Board, is encouraging all those who are eligible to have the flu jab: “GPs and community pharmacies are continuing to support the Beat Flu campaign to protect our local communities across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

“We expect to see cases of flu in the community on the rise in the build up to Christmas and the best way to avoid becoming ill and prevent the spread of the virus is to get vaccinated.

“Flu can be extremely serious in those in the at risk groups, leading to severe complications or even death.

“Flu vaccination remains the single best way to protect the community against flu and so I urge anyone who is still thinking about getting vaccinated to contact their GP or pharmacist immediately to have the free vaccine.

“Parents of children aged between two and nine should also ensure that they receive their free nasal spray vaccine, not only to protect them, but to give additional protection to grandparents and other relatives aged 65 or over.”

Angharad Phillips of national charity Age Cymru urges people to listen to the experts, and added: “Influenza is still a very real health risk to us all, but especially for those of us who are older. This is why the NHS funds people aged 65 and older to have a flu vaccination every year.

“As we age our immune system becomes less efficient at protecting us and so we should take every precaution we can against a disease that can prove fatal to older people.

“Flu vaccine is the best protection we currently have against flu, it helps protect against catching flu and also against spreading flu to others.

“At Age Cymru we promote uptake of the free flu vaccine every year as part of our own winter health and resilience campaign. We ask that people ‘Spread The Warmth’ to older people and not the flu! Get protected and protect others at the same time.”

Most NHS flu vaccines are given in GP surgeries, but the vaccination is also widely available for adults in many community pharmacies across Wales.

The influenza virus is spread via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection. The virus can spread rapidly, especially in closed communities such as hospitals, residential homes and schools.

Find out more by visiting www.beatflu.org or www.curwchffliw.org or finding Beat Flu or Curwch Ffliw on Twitter and Facebook.

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