Health chiefs in Wolverhampton are urging people in "at risk" groups to make sure they have their free flu vaccination.

With the flu season approaching, people of all ages with a health condition, pregnant women and parents of children aged from 2 to 4 should contact their GP or pharmacist and arrange an appointment now.

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 the free flu vaccine last year.

And pregnant women are encouraged to have the vaccination too - pregnancy naturally weakens the body's immune system and as a result, increases the risk of a mother and unborn baby becoming seriously ill from flu.

Meanwhile, all 2, 3 and 4 year olds are being offered a special Fluenz vaccination, administered through a child friendly nasal spray.

Councillor Sandra Samuels, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "Flu is a really unpleasant illness, particularly for vulnerable residents, and I'd urge those who are eligible for the free vaccination 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, and remind people who are not eligible for the free vaccination that they are still able to have it for a small fee."

Ros Jervis, Wolverhampton's Director of Public Health, said: "Last year's flu season was less severe than some we have seen but flu is an unpredictable virus and it is impossible to predict how many serious cases we may get this year.

"People with certain long term health conditions are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu and, sadly, many end up in hospital. The best way people can protect themselves from flu is to take up the offer of free vaccination from their GP as soon as it becomes available.

"Even people whose health conditions are well managed and who lead otherwise healthy lives should still have the flu vaccine.

"By increasing the number of people who are vaccinated against flu, we can help to prevent the spread of the virus around Wolverhampton - and so I'm particularly pleased that our Year 7 and 8 pupils have also been invited to take part in a pilot programme this term where they will be offered the Fluenz nasal spray."

Public Health England's national seasonal flu campaign launched on Monday (6 October, 2014), encouraging uptake of the influenza vaccine amongst the most at risk groups across the country.

released: Thursday 9 October, 2014