People across Forth Valley urged to get a flu jab

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People are being urged to take up their invitations to get the flu vaccine, particularly those over 65 and in the at risk groups.

Health experts have already warned that although the prevalence of flu was fairly low in the UK last year, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases reported this year in Australia, a trend which could be mirrored here.

NHS Forth Valley consultant in public health medicine, Dr Henry Prempeh, said: “Vaccination provides the best defence against flu and getting it early is vital. I’d encourage everyone eligible to make their flu vaccination a priority. GP practices are also arranging open clinics so please go along if you have been invited.”

The target groups are people over the age of 65 or those under 65 with chronic illnesses which can make flu much more dangerous. These include those with heart disease, chest complaints such as bronchitis, emphysema or asthma, chronic kidney failure, cystic fibrosis, lowered immunity due to disease or treatment, diabetes or liver problems.

Last year saw a decline in uptake amongst those with long term conditions.

Children are also at greater risk as even healthy children can become seriously ill from flu a number may require hospital treatment.

Pregnant women, unpaid carers and healthcare staff are also eligible for vaccination and GP practices across the NHS Forth Valley area are providing free vaccine in the form of a nasal spray for children aged two to five. Primary school pupils aged five to 11 are being offered the vaccine at local schools.

Last year NHS Forth Valley achieved the second highest uptake of the flu vaccine in the over 65 age group with a rate of 76.2 per cent compared with a Scottish average of 73.7 per cent.

They also achieved top place in the carers category with a 55.2 per cent success compared with a Scottish average of 45.1 per cent.