Vulnerable urged to have free flu vaccine

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HEALTH bosses say vulnerable people should take up the offer of free flu vaccinations following two reported deaths from swine flu at Eastbourne District General Hospital.

The elderly, infirm and pregnant women are being advised to contact their GP and arrange free flu immunisations.

The deadly swine flu virus claimed the life of a 42-year-old patient at the DGH at around the same time as the first victim’s death on New Year’s Eve – the only two deaths from the virus in Sussex this winter.

Another patient is believed to have narrowly avoided death.

The DGH has reportedly set aside a designated flu ward, including a resuscitation room, because of the life-threatening nature of the virus.

Nichola Hill, 37, whose 14-month-old daughter Elspeth recovered from swine flu at the DGH and was discharged on January 4, said, “We were told by a nurse that a lot of people in their 30s were in intensive care with swine flu. Another nurse said two people had died.

“One of the nurses in A&E said Elspeth was the first really poorly child with swine flu, but they knew that would be the start of it.”

A spokesperson for the NHS South East Coast Strategic Health Authority said, “We are not confirming any suspected cases of flu. It’s really around the issue of patient confidentiality.

“We would say in this instance it’s important people are being vaccinated and it’s important people do not go to hospital unless they are suffering from serious complications and that, as much as possible, most flu can be treated at home.

“Unfortunately flu can be serious and people can die from flu. It does happen regularly but, at the moment, the incidents of flu are within the normal range for this time of year.”

As the Herald went to press the SHA was updating last week’s figures of 51 patients in intensive with flu across Sussex, Kent and Surrey.

To qualify for free vaccinations you must be either aged 65 or over, have a serious medical condition, live in a residential nursing home, be a carer whose patients’ welfare relies on them or be a healthcare or social care professional directly involved in patient treatment.

Flu sufferers who are concerned about becoming increasingly unwell should seek medical advice from their GP or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.