Patients with flu are being hospitalised in increasing numbers across the Black Country prompting health chiefs to urge people to take up their vaccinations to better protect themselves against the virus.
Some patients are so poorly that they are on ventilators in critical care – particularly those with underlying health conditions who are more likely to develop complications. The infection can be fatal and each year across the UK flu and pneumonia kill around 30,000 people.
For those who have diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) catching the flu puts them at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill. Those with severe mental illness are also at similar risk.
Vaccinations are offered free to people with these conditions as well as families of those who are immunosuppressed who need protection from the virus.
Some patients with flu will need to be admitted to hospital. Patients being cared for at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust have shared their experiences to raise awareness of how debilitating flu can be and to encourage people to have their vaccinations.
Director of Nursing at Wolverhampton, Debra Hickman, and Director of Nursing at Walsall, Lisa Carroll, said: “Flu is so much more than feeling rotten with a cough and a cold – our patients will tell you just how serious it can be.
“Many of them would never have expected to end up in hospital with this virus but that is exactly what can happen. And for those who have not been vaccinated, the consequences can be devastating. We have patients with underlying health conditions who have had to be ventilated in critical care because they are so seriously ill. Flu can kill people and its potential effects should never be underestimated.
“We have seen many people whose Christmas has been spoilt this year because they have become so poorly and the last thing anyone wants is to be in hospital at what is often a special time for families and friends.”
Sally Roberts, Chief Nursing Officer for NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board, said: “It’s vital that everyone prepares for potential winter illnesses, especially those who are at higher risk.
“Getting vaccinated helps you and the NHS, which is already facing extreme pressures in the very busy winter season. That’s why we’re urging all those eligible for a flu vaccine to come forward as soon as possible.”
Patricia’s flu jab plea
“Flu has completely knocked me off my feet and I never dreamt it would put me in hospital. I just think how much worse it could have been if I hadn’t had my jab this year.”
Patricia Bull, 82, is being treated at Walsall Manor Hospital. And the Wednesbury great grandmother has one clear message for those who haven’t yet had their flu vaccination:
“I would tell everyone to protect themselves. I have never, ever felt like this.”
The former school cook was taken ill on Boxing Day and ended up in Walsall’s Emergency Department on Tuesday 27 December after becoming increasingly unwell and confused.
Her daughter Karen Deakin said: “Mum stayed with us on Christmas night following our lunch and I could hear her coughing then. But the cough got worse and for someone who is usually fit and healthy this has really affected her badly.
“She has had all of her COVID-19 and flu jabs and I’m glad she has because this could have been much worse for her. It’s already given us a shock – her being hospitalised.”
Patricia added: “It’s frightening to think of how much worse this could have been as it has been bad enough for me. I am hoping to go home soon but my oxygen levels are low so we need to see how it goes. Everyone needs to take the flu seriously and look after themselves.”
The free flu vaccine is given to people who:
- are aged 50 and over (including those who will be 50 years old by 31 March 2023
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if they get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get a severe infection due to a weakened immune system, such as someone living with HIV, someone who has had a transplant, or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
- are frontline health workers
- are social care workers who cannot get the vaccine through an occupational health scheme at work
In addition, all primary school children and some secondary school children, as well as youngsters aged two or three, can get a free nasal spray flu vaccine.
To find out more about flu vaccination and where to get it, visit www.nhs.uk/flujab and remember that vaccination protection wears off over time which is why it is important to stay up to date.