With the flu season well underway, people are being urged to make sure they have been vaccinated against the virus.

It comes after health chiefs revealed that hundreds of people attended the Accident and Emergency department at New Cross Hospital over the Christmas period with flu like symptoms, meaning patients with more serious illnesses or injuries were waiting longer to be seen.

For most healthy people, flu is an unpleasant but usually limiting disease. However, older people, the very young, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system or health condition like asthma, diabetes or heart disease are at particular risk from the more serious effects of flu.

Experts say people with flu are more than 10 times more likely to die if they have an underlying health condition than if they do not. Despite this, barely half of people in the West Midlands with an underlying condition took up the offer of a free flu vaccination last winter.

Councillor Sandra Samuels, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "Flu is a really unpleasant illness, particularly for people with certain long term health conditions who are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell, and I'd urge people to get themselves protected as soon as possible.

"I'd also urge all health care workers to make sure they are vaccinated to protect themselves, their patients and their families.

"Even if you are not eligible for the free vaccination, you can still arrange to have it for a small charge.

"By increasing the number of people who are vaccinated against flu, we can help to prevent the spread of the virus around Wolverhampton."

Gwen Nuttall, Chief Operating Officer at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, said: "We would ask people with flu to rest at home rather than going to A&E, and if they're not sure what to do, to call NHS111 for advice."

People can help stop the spread of flu by:

  • washing their hands frequently with soap and water
  • cleaning surfaces such as computer keyboards, phones and door handles
  • using tissues to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze

Those most at risk from the effects of flu include people aged over 65, pregnant women, children aged between 2 and 4, anyone with a long term health condition, and people of all ages with a weakened immune system - for example, patients taking steroids or undergoing treatment for cancer.

  • released: Tuesday 6 January, 2015