Almost 10,000 extra over-65s in Northamptonshire have put their health at risk this year by neglecting to get the flu jab.
Figures from the Department of Health show that between September and October this year, only 55,559 over-65s received the vaccination: a dramatic fall from the 64,906 recipients during the same months in 2011.
Liam Condron, chief officer of Age UK Northamptonshire, said: “We would encourage everyone over 65 to get the flu jab. Flu is not a mild disease and it can cause a stay in hospital and can even be fatal.”
Flu is a respiratory illness caused by infection from the influenza virus, with symptoms including aching, coughing, sore throats and fevers. Although these symptoms can be mild, they can also range to causing pneumonia, bronchitis and death.
The seasonal injection, which is perfectly safe and offers protection from the influenza virus, is free of charge to at-risk groups, including those in the older age bracket who are more likely to develop severe complications along with the flu.
Dr Olufunke Adedji, consultant in public health at NHS Northamptonshire, said: “We want to remind people that even if you had the flu jab last year, you need it again this winter to ensure you are protected.
“The flu virus is constantly changing and last year’s vaccine won’t necessarily protect you from this year’s virus.”
Although the number of pregnant women receiving the jab has risen from 887 in 2011 to 1,408 this year, there has also been a decline in the number of people with long term conditions having the vaccination, down from 24,370 to 19,555.
Those affected by the virus are advised to keep up their fluid intake to avoid dehydration, take painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol to help with any aches, and ensure that they are well rested.
Anyone who is interested in receiving the flu jab is urged to contact their local GP.