HYWEL Dda University Health Board is reminding people with long term health conditions to protect themselves from flu this year.

Having some health conditions puts people at more risk of complications if they catch flu, including pneumonia. Conditions that put people more at risk include diabetes, heart, liver and kidney disease, stroke, mini stroke, and respiratory problems.

People with chronic chest conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and moderate to severe asthma, for example, are around seven times more likely to die from flu than people without a health condition.

People whose spleen doesn’t work properly, adults who are very overweight (have a BMI of 40 or more), and people who have a suppressed immune system due to disease or treatment – such as cancer patients – are also more vulnerable to the effects of flu, and should have their flu vaccine.

Last year, around half the people in Wales aged 6 months – 64 years of age eligible for a free NHS flu vaccination due to a long term health condition missed out on getting their flu vaccine.

Eighteen year old university student Gracie Macauley, who has Type 1 diabetes, explains why she never misses her flu vaccination: “If you have a condition like diabetes, you have enough health problems. Why would you risk making yourself more ill by catching the flu?

“You should do everything you can to look after yourself, because there can be serious consequences if you don’t. The flu vaccine offers the best protection from flu. For me and other people with diabetes, flu can be really serious. I’d be stupid to take that gamble.”

Stand-up comedian Aled Richards, who has recently completed a new radio show talking about his heart attack three years ago, said: “I did not know that over half of the people living in Wales with a long-term health condition did not get their flu jab last year.

“Considering it’s free, takes minutes to do and can help protect me from a very harmful disease, I wouldn’t risk missing out and neither should anyone else in a similar situation.”

Flu is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms generally come on suddenly, and can include fever, chills, headache, cough, body aches and fatigue.

Flu 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, which can spread rapidly.

The Chief Nursing Officer for Wales, Jean White, is urging others like Gracie and Aled to make sure they take up the offer of a flu vaccine this year: “If you have a long term or chronic health condition, flu can affect you more than other people. There is protection available, and an annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent yourself from catching flu, which can make your condition worse or can lead to other dangerous complications.

“Please don’t take any risks – make sure you get your vaccine this year.”

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