Diabetic patients urged to have free flu vaccine

Commissioners in East Berkshire are urging people with diabetes and other long-term conditions to have the flu jab to reduce their risk of developing serious complications.

Complications can include pneumonia; inflammation of the heart; brain; muscle tissues and multi-organ failure (e.g. respiratory and kidney).

A diabetic patient’s elevated blood glucose level, which occurs as a natural response to fighting infection, can, if left untreated also become a serious risk, with potentially fatal consequences. Clinicians’ advise that even patients whose diabetes is well managed and under control should still have the flu vaccine.

Jo Greengrass, said, “It really is important for patients with diabetes and other long- term health conditions to make sure they have the flu vaccine.

“Having the vaccine is the best way of protecting yourself from contracting the flu virus; and so minimising any risk of more serious complications that might arise from infection caused by the flu virus. It is just not worth the risk of exposing yourself to potentially higher risks of more serious illness.

She added: “Diabetic patients can have the vaccine free of charge, via their GP surgery or local pharmacy. Patients should have the vaccine as soon as possible, giving themselves the best chance of immunity before the flu virus begins actively circulating in the community.”

In addition to people with diabetes, you are eligible for a free flu vaccination on the NHS this year if you are:

  • Aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2018)
  • Aged from 6 months to less than 65 years of ages with a serious medical condition which includes chronic (long term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis; chronic heart disease, such as heart failure; chronic kidney disease at stage three, four or five; chronic liver disease; chronic neurological disease such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease, or learning disability; diabetes; splenic dysfunction; weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment); morbidly obese (defined as BMI of 40 and above)
  • You are pregnant (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season)
  • A child aged two to eight on 31 August 2017
  • Living in long-stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality. Please note that this does not include prisons, young offender institutions, or university halls of residence
  • You are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or if you are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill

If you do not fall within any of the above groups, you can still have the vaccination by paying for it at your local pharmacist.

The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, extreme tiredness and aches and pains in the joints and muscles.  Healthy individuals usually recover within a week, but for some the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death.  If you do get the flu make sure you rest, drink plenty of fluids and eat healthily.  Taking over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce any fever or discomfort, can also help.

Flu is caused by influenza viruses and not bacteria. Therefore, antibiotics will not help to treat it.  However, if there are complications from getting flu, antibiotics may be needed.

When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the flu virus in tiny droplets of saliva over a wide area. These droplets can then be breathed in by other people or they can be picked up by touching surfaces where the droplets have landed. You can prevent the spread of the virus by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and you can wash your hands frequently or use hand gels to reduce the risk of picking up the virus.