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Should you be concerned about swine flu?

Should you be concerned about swine flu? Those in high risk group should get vaccinated

Following news that ten people have died from swine flu in the past six weeks, there is justifiable concern about a resurgence of the virus.

Last year, the government urged wide-ranging vaccination for those most at risk from the condition.

While currently the incidence of swine flu is limited, if you happen to be in the at risk group, you should not underestimate the threat it poses to your health.

Influenza can increase your risk of a serious illness, such as pneumonia, or can make a pre-existing existing medical condition - such as asthma - worse.

Speaking about the recent deaths caused by the virus, Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation at the Department of Health, said: "These figures demonstrate that the effects of flu are not to be underestimated. It is not the same as getting a cold and can seriously affect your health."

You should be vaccinated if you are:

  • Pregnant, and were not vaccinated for swine flu last year
  • Aged 65 years or over
  • Live in a residential or nursing home
  • Are the main carer for an older or disabled person

Or you have:

  • A heart problem
  • A chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis and emphysema
  • Kidney disease
  • Lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
  • Liver disease
  • Had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy
  • Have a problem with, or removal of, your spleen e.g. sickle cell disease

The vaccination is free and will protect you against three types of flu, including last year's new H1N1 virus strain, also known as swine flu.

The vaccine is generally well tolerated, and is effective in about 80 per cent of people, though it will also mitigate the effects of the flu in those who fall ill.

To find out more about swine flu, and how to distinguish it from a common cold, see here.

This article was published on Tue 14 December 2010

Image © CDC C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish

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