Flu Vaccination

The flu is a fairly common infection that, while a nuisance, doesn’t pose a health risk to people in the UK. For some of us the flu is a yearly occurrence that marks the changing seasons, however for others the flu can pose a far more serious threat. In these cases the flu vaccine can prove an invaluable method of preventing what can be a harmful condition.

Why would a flu vaccine be needed?

A flu vaccine is particularly useful in at-risk groups who, for whatever reason, would struggle to deal with an influenza infection. Our immune system can decline over time, or be affected by conditions that render us unable to effectively defend against a common infectious agent like the flu.

In these groups, the flu can lead to serious respiratory complication, and in the most severe cases, death. Examples of complications include bronchitis, an infection of the bronchiole tubes that carry air in and out of our lungs, and pneumonia, a serious infection that can be fatal particularly for the elderly.

Who needs the flu vaccine?

There are certain groups identified as being particularly at-risk of serious influenza infections and complications. These include people aged 65 or over who will have a slightly weakened immune system because of their advancing years.

Pregnant women are advised to receive a flu jab if they are pregnant around flu season, and this is because pregnancies can be at risk of serious complications in some cases, particularly if infected with the virulent H1N1 virus. The evidence available to date suggests that flu vaccinations are perfectly safe during a healthy pregnancy, and that the treatment doesn’t pose any risks to mother or child. The immunity conferred by the vaccination can actually extend to the child as maternal antibodies are passed on to babies when they are born and can offer a few months of valuable protection.

The flu vaccine can benefit anyone with a chronic breathing, heart, liver or kidney disease. All of these can take their toll on the body, leaving it less able to defend itself. Diabetes and immune issues are also considered grounds for the provision of the flu vaccine, particularly the latter

Health and social care workers who are regularly exposed to people carrying all manner of diseases are very susceptible to encountering lots of different bacteria and viruses that can take their toll on their immunity. Furthermore a heath or social care worker suffering from the flu can easily pass the infection on to patients who are already unwell, and thereby exacerbate their condition.

Currently there is a movement to introduce the annual flu vaccine for children between 2 and 17 years of age. At present, however, it would appear that this programme is unlikely to commence until 2014. Should it be enacted, this programme will involve administering a nasal spray vaccine to children in this age group, and should prevent the spread of the flu during peak seasons.

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