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07 October 2014 08:34
Expectant mothers are more at risk of catching flu because pregnancy weakens the immune system
Health officials are calling on pregnant women to vaccinate themselves against flu.
Parents with young kids and people who have existing medical conditions are also being urged by Public Health England (PHE) to get the jab.
Expectant mothers should make sure they take advantage of the free jab because the body's immune system is naturally weakened by pregnancy, leaving pregnant women and their unborn babies more vulnerable to illness, the PHE says. Pregnancy travel insurance is also available to provide extra peace of mind for those leaving the country while pregnant.
Other at risk groups being urged to get the vaccine include older people and those who are very young, as well as people with health conditions like heart disease, diabetes or asthma.
Children between the ages of two and three were able to be vaccinated with a new nasal spray last year. This has now been extended to four-year-olds.
Healthcare workers are eligible for vaccination too.
The flu jab is completely safe at any point during a pregnancy but even though vaccination is free and totally risk free, uptake among pregnant women was just 40% last year.
A four-week national media campaign has just been launched to encourage people to get vaccinated and push up vaccination rates this year.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies is urging people to get vaccinated sooner rather than later in order to protect themselves and their families from flu this winter.
Jabs can be arranged by seeing your GP.
A total of 904 people with flu were admitted to intensive care or high dependency units last winter. Of those, 98 died.
How to avoid flu
There are a number of steps we can all take to reduce our chances of catching the flu:
1) Wash your hands - Using soap and water to wash our hands regularly kills germs and slows down the spread of flu
2) Clean surfaces - Wiping down frequently used surfaces like keyboards, door handles and telephones stops us from passing on germs to each other.
3) Catch it. Kill it. Bin it. - Making sure we cover our mouths and noses when we cough or sneeze will stop us from infecting others.
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