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Protect yourself and others and get the flu vaccine

Friday, 29 October 2010

That was the message today from Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride who has urged all eligible individuals to take up the offer of the seasonal flu vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccination programme began on 1 October and many people may have already received their vaccine. This year’s flu vaccine offers protection against a number of viruses which are expected to circulate this winter, including the swine flu (H1N1 2009) virus.

Dr McBride said: “The swine flu virus is expected to cause outbreaks again this winter and while last year most people only suffered mild illness, certain groups were more seriously affected. That is why it is important that everyone with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, or those who are immunosuppressed or suffer from chronic conditions such as lung, heart, kidney or neurological disease are vaccinated. In addition, pregnant women and health and social care staff should get the vaccine and make sure they are protected.

“Last year we were dealing with a pandemic situation. WHO declared in August 2010 that this is now over. This year is different and we are dealing with seasonal flu, although we will not be complacent in the face of a virus that is still relatively new. Many people will have immunity to the swine flu virus because they will either have been infected last year, or will have received the pandemic vaccine. This means that fewer people should be susceptible to flu this year."

Arrangements for surveillance of influenza are well developed across the UK. The Public Health Agency publishes the flu bulletin for Northern Ireland each week throughout the season. This is available on the PHA website

Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health at the Public Health Agency said: “We don’t expect to see as many flu cases this year compared to last year as more people are now immune to H1N1 2009, but we will monitor the situation closely. From our experience and planning last year, we are well prepared to respond if the situation changes.”

Notes to editors:

1. Media enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0074. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number on 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.