HEALTH bosses are pleased with the steady uptake of the flu jabs in the town this winter, but still want to raise awareness of its importance.

New figures released by NHS Swindon show only small variations between this year’s uptake compared with last year’s, putting them on track to achieve their targets.

The flu jab is offered free to people over 65, under-65s with serious long-term health problems, pregnant women and frontline health and social care staff.

So far this year, 35.8 per cent of pregnant women have had the jab, compared to just 27.2 per cent of those in the same group this time last year.

Figures for the under-65s at risk stand at 33.6 per cent this year compared to 35.4 per cent last year, while the uptake amongst over-65s stands at 56.3 per cent compared to 58.9 per cent last year.

Dr Ayoola Oyinloye, consultant in public health medicine for NHS Swindon, said: “We are pleased with the number of people who have had their vaccination this year so far.

“But we would like to see more people contact their doctor’s surgery to find out more and book an appointment.

“The flu vaccination this year will protect you against the circulating flu strains including the swine flu virus.

“Please don’t wait until a flu outbreak occurs. However if you do contract the flu virus, stay at home, keep warm, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and take paracetamol or other painkillers such as ibuprofen to lower a high temperature, and relieve aches.

“For most people, flu is a self-limiting illness, but if you have to visit your GP with flu-like symptoms, please let the surgery know you may have flu when you arrange your appointment.”

GWH chief nurse Hilary Walker said: “Flu is not just a cold – it can be a really serious illness for some people and it doesn’t just affect older people.

“If you’re pregnant, have lowered immunity or a long term health condition such as asthma, a chest or heart complaint, or diabetes then you should get a flu jab from your GP.

“The flu jab is completely safe, and it can’t give you flu.”

The flu vaccine changes every year to fight the latest strains of flu, so even if you had a jab last winter you need another one this year to stay protected. The jab doesn’t contain the live virus so it cannot give you the flu.

The 2012/13 vaccine protects against three types of flu virus - H1N1, the strain of flu that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009, H3N2, a strain of flu that can infect birds and mammals and was active in 2011 and a strain of flu that was active in 2010 known as B/Wisconsin/1.

Hilary said: “Flu can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and can make existing conditions much worse.

“Flu can knock you off your feet and make it hard to look after the kids or go to work.

“In the most serious cases, seasonal flu might land you in hospital – it can even be a killer.”