Stay well this winter

People across Somerset are being urged to get the flu jab to protect themselves and others from flu this winter. Flu is a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very suddenly. It can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability and even death, especially among at-risk groups.

The flu vaccine is free to those in groups at particular risk of infection and complications:

• Pregnant women
• Children aged 2-4 and in school years 1 and 2
• Those aged over 65 or over
• Those aged under 65 with long term conditions
• Carers. Those receiving a carer’s allowance or who are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk you fall ill.

Last year in Somerset, 71.3 per cent of the over 65s had the flu vaccination but only 39 per cent of pregnant women and 48.2 per cent of those from six months to under 65 in ‘at risk’ groups had a vaccination.

Trudi Grant, Somerset’s Director of Public Health, Somerset County Council said: “Don’t put off getting the flu vaccination. If you are eligible, it is free because you have a higher risk.

“Exactly how effective the vaccine is can vary from year to year, but it is still the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus and the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from catching flu. The higher levels of flu last winter just prove how important it is to defend ourselves against this virus.”

The NHS ‘Stay Well this Winter’ campaign urges people over 65 or those with long term health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease or respiratory illness to prepare for winter with advice on how to ward off common illnesses so they do not require a visit to the hospital.

Top tips include:

• Make sure you get your flu jab first and foremost if you are eligible.
• Keep yourself warm – heat your home to at least 18 degrees C or (65F) if you can.
• If you start to feel unwell, even if it is just a common cough or cold then get help from your pharmacist quickly before it gets more serious.
• Make sure you get your prescription medicines before pharmacies close on Christmas Eve.
• Always take your prescribed medicines as directed. • Look out for other people who may need a bit of extra help over winter.
• If you need help over the holiday period when your GP surgery or pharmacy is closed call NHS 111 or visit http://www.nhs.uk who can direct you to a local service that is open.

Cllr. Anna Groskop, Cabinet Member with responsibility for health at Somerset County Council said: “It is also crucial we all do what we can to help others stay well. Older people are the largest group admitted to hospital each winter. Nationally half live alone and one third never or only occasionally socialise with family or friends.

“Older people are often slow to seek help and once ill can get too unwell to see people. This is a golden opportunity for us all to look out for our neighbour, help beat the loneliness that can set in during the long winter months and also ensure they get any help they need.”

The ‘Stay Well this Winter’ campaign can help you and your family prepare for every aspect of winter http://www.nhs.org.uk/staywell and #staywellthiswinter

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Notes to Editors:

Other simple but highly effective ways you could help to reduce the spread of flu are:

• Always wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water
• regularly cleaning surfaces such as your computer keyboard, telephone and door handles to get rid of germs
• using tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
• putting used tissues in a bin as soon as possible

For more information contact the Somerset County Council Press Office on 01823 355020 or email pressoffice@somerset.gov.uk.
Or Gill Ohlson, Somerset County Council, Public Health Communications Lead on 07584 151024 .