This winter many of us will fall ill with colds or the flu. And while for most of us, it will mean nothing more than a few days in bed with a box of tissues and some hot lemon drinks, for some the flu can be deadly.
Flu is so common place, we often forget just how dangerous it can be.
Last year, more than 16,500 people in Wales were diagnosed by their GP with a flu-like illness, with a further 2,680 people diagnosed in hospital. Of those diagnosed in hospital, 192 needed intensive care.
Frontline social care workers, such as care home staff and home care workers, can pose a risk to the people they care for, who are often among the most vulnerable to the flu, by unwittingly spreading the virus.
Last year, there were around 56 outbreaks of flu in care homes across Wales.
This is why I’d encourage every frontline social care worker who is eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS to take up the opportunity and get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Carers and people who are particularly at risk of the flu, such as those aged 65 or over, pregnant women, and those with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions and chest conditions, can also get vaccinated for free.
Last year, only half the carers who were eligible for the vaccine got protected, while fewer than half those who were considered at risk, who were aged between six months and 64 years old, got vaccinated.
Flu is a serious illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms tend to come on suddenly and can include fever, chills, headache, cough, muscle aches and fatigue.
It cannot be treated with antibiotics, so the best way to protect yourself and those you care for is by having the flu vaccine each year.
The vaccination also helps prevent the spread of the virus, so getting vaccinated helps keep you and those around you safe.
Even if you had the vaccine last year, it’s important to make sure you get it again this year because immunity wanes and the virus changes each year.
If you’re a frontline social care worker, speak to your employer about getting the vaccination. You can also speak to your local community pharmacist.
You can find more information at http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/page/96860/