Pregnant women across the North West are being urged to get their flu vaccination after new evidence reveals that ‘flu activity’ is increasing in the area.
The latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) indicate that the virus is now circulating in the community. Previous flu seasons suggest this strain particularly affects pregnant women, children, and adults with long term conditions like chronic heart disease, liver disease, neurological disease and respiratory disease in particular. All of these people can receive the flu jab for free.
The vaccination is quick and easy and is the best protection from the virus. It will also help to reduce the risk or serious illness, hospitalisation or even death amongst those at risk.
Clare Fitzpatrick, Head of Midwifery at Liverpool Women's, urged pregnant women to have the jab: "Although many people are aware that catching the flu can be very serious for people aged 65 and over and those with long-term health conditions, far fewer people know about the high risks for pregnant women.
"Often people think they don't need a flu jab because they've had it before. But the vaccination only lasts for one year, so it's incredibly important for all pregnant women at any stage in pregnancy to have their flu vaccination as soon as possible to protect themselves. This will also protect the baby for the first few months of life.”
Evidence suggests that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get the flu, particularly in their late stages of pregnancy. One of the most common complications is bronchitis, a chest infection that, if it becomes serious, can develop into pneumonia. If you have flu whilst you're pregnant, it could mean your baby is born prematurely or has a low birth weight, and may even lead to still birth or death in the first week of life. This is why the flu jab is very important, and will protect you and your baby.
Clare added: "We also want to reassure all mums that the vaccination doesn’t contain the 'live’ virus and cannot give you the flu. The vaccine is very safe, trusted and well-tested and can be given safely at any stage in pregnancy."
Some of the main symptoms of flu are a high temperature (38C or above), tiredness and weakness, a headache, a dry, chesty cough, a runny nose and sneezing.
To help reduce risks of transmission of the virus, you should maintain a good cough and hand hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and cleaning your hands as soon you can.
All pregnant women can book a free flu jab at their local surgery. Some midwives are also vaccinating pregnant women at their antenatal appointments. If you have any questions, talk to your doctor or midwife or alternatively look online at www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu