The flu virus is easily spread.
Everyone who is eligible to receive the free flu vaccine is being urged to make arrangements to get it to maximise their protection against the virus over winter.
The call comes as the Public Health Agency's latest flu bulletin, published today, which shows that there has been an increase in flu-like illnesses. The PHA is also highlighting the importance of hand hygiene and self-care when preventing and managing illness to reduce the spread of infection.
The latest figures from the PHA, although low, do show that people consulting their GP with flu or flu-like illness in the North doubled between week 46 and week 47 of this year (6.9 per 100,000 of the population to 14.2 per 100,000).
Dr Gerry Waldron, Assistant Director of Public Health (Health Protection) at the PHA, said: “Each year we plan for flu during the winter months, so while the increase is not unusual, we are seeing it slightly earlier than expected. This reflects the unpredictable nature of flu, which is why it is important to get the vaccine to maximise protection.
“Receiving the seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect yourself and others from getting the virus, so we are calling on everyone who is eligible to make arrangements now to get it if you haven’t already Those who can receive it for free through GP surgeries include people with an underlying health condition, people aged over 65, pregnant women and pre-schoolers aged 2-4.
“Primary school children get the vaccine through their school, so we would also encourage parents to make sure they have returned their consent forms for this.
"Respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu, as well as other illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhoea, can be very common at this time of year. For most people they are short-term, unpleasant illnesses, with most of us getting better within a few days. However, we can all play our part in keeping illnesses at bay and helping to protect more vulnerable people, for whom they can present a more serious risk.”
If you’re feeling unwell, your local pharmacist can usually provide over-the-counter medication to help deal with your symptoms until your illness passes.
For further information on how to help yourself stay well this winter visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/stay-well
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