The 2018/19 seasonal flu vaccine is now available in pharmacies around the country, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said.
It has just launched its annual campaign encouraging people to get vaccinated. After a very severe 2017/18 flu season, the union is advising that getting the vaccine early this year is key to avoiding infection.
"Influenza is a highly infectious and potentially serious disease. Flu season typically lasts from October to April and in 2017, Ireland experienced a particularly severe flu season which led to the hospitalisation of 4,680 people and tragically the death of over 200," commented IPU president, Daragh Connolly.
He pointed out that the annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best protection against flu, and the most effective time to get this is before the illness begins spreading in your community.
"After vaccination, it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to develop and for your protection to be maximised. Therefore, early vaccination is highly recommended, particularly for those in at-risk groups," Mr Connolly said.
At-risk groups include:
-People over the age of 65
-Adults with chronic illnesses that require regular follow-up, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma and cystic fibrosis
-Residents of nursing homes and other long-stay facilities.
Anyone in an at-risk group who has a medical card can get the vaccine free of charge from their pharmacy. Last year, pharmacists provided 115,000 flu vaccines to patients nationwide - representing 13% of all flu vaccinations.
"Since pharmacists first started vaccinating in 2011, flu vaccine deliveries have increased overall by 29%. This shows that when pharmacists vaccinate, public awareness increases, and vaccination rates increase through all channels," Mr Connolly added.
Symptoms of flu include a high fever that lasts a few days, severe aches and pains including headaches, and extreme fatigue and weakness.
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