THE NHS has made a new appeal to people in Cheshire and Merseyside to have the flu jab if they are in an at risk group.

Cheshire and Merseyside’s medical director has urged people who are in at risk groups to get themselves vaccinated, as numbers of people experiencing flu symptoms in the local area continue to rise. 

Dr Kieran Murphy, Medical Director for NHS England (Cheshire and Merseyside), warned that people with long-term conditions such as asthma, heart-disease and diabetes are particularly at risk of serious illness as the flu virus continues to spread.

The latest figures published by Public Health England show that the number of people across Cheshire and Merseyside going to see their GP with flu symptoms has doubled over the past two weeks, with the highest rates amongst people aged over 25. 

So far more than 219,600 people in at-risk groups have been vaccinated across Cheshire and Merseyside, in one of the biggest drives to fight the flu virus – but there’s still time for others to have the vaccine. 

Dr Murphy said: “For the majority of people flu is an unpleasant illness, but they should start to feel better within seven days.  The problem for people with long-term conditions is, that they are more susceptible to complications if they catch the flu virus, because they have weakened immune systems.  This means that a bout of flu could turn quickly in to a serious infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, which can cause longer-term damage to the lungs – and unfortunately some people end up in critical care in hospital.

“Unfortunately at the moment we’re seeing a rise in the number of people admitted to hospital as a result of catching the flu. It is encouraging that so many people have already been vaccinated and this will help to control the outbreak, however we know some people have still not had their flu vaccine. My message to them is to have it as soon as possible, because it remains the best possible protection against the flu virus.”

Children from age six months, adolescents and adults in at-risk groups, can have the vaccine free of charge; including those aged 65 years or over, and pregnant women, (any stage of pregnancy).  The free vaccine is also offered to all children age two and three years old as a nasal spray vaccine at GP practices; to help protect them from flu and also protect their grandparents and other family contacts, who may be more at risk of developing serious complications. Contact your GP surgery, who will be able to advise you on booking an appointment to have the flu jab. For adults age 18 years and over in at risk groups or over age 65 years there is also the choice of receiving the free flu vaccine at a local pharmacy.