FLU: People with a learning disability are at greater risk of developing serious illness

People who have a learning disability can be more susceptible to the effects of flu and are therefore at increased risk of developing complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

Anyone with a learning disability is entitled to receive a free vaccination. Carers of anyone with a learning disability are also entitled to the free vaccination.

GP practices and community pharmacies are carrying out vaccinations for those at risk now.

The vaccine offers the best level of protection from the flu virus, and it’s important to have the vaccine every year, especially as the flu virus strain changes every year. Anyone who is defined as being in an ‘at risk’ group should contact their surgery and arrange an appointment to have the vaccine.

Having the vaccine sooner provides the individual with protection over a longer period of time; it also helps reduce the chances of spreading the virus to family and friends.

Dr Caroline Gamlin, NHS England Medical Director for Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset, said:

“Flu is a very unpleasant illness. The symptoms can be miserable for many of us, but it can lead to more serious complications for those who fall within certain clinical ‘at risk’ groups. Some people with a learning disability can be more susceptible to flu and can go on to develop more serious complications. I’d urge people to make sure they have the vaccination as soon as possible.

“Carers of anyone with a learning disability should also get the free vaccine from their GP surgery or community pharmacy – the sooner the better to get the best possible protection.”

The Flu vaccine is also free for patients in the following at risk groups:

  • Those aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2019)
  • Those aged from 6 months to less than 65 years of age with a serious medical condition such as:
  • Chronic (long term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis.
  • Chronic heart disease – (such as heart failure).
  • Chronic kidney disease (at stages three, four or five).
  • Chronic liver disease.
  • Chronic neurological disease such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease
  • Diabetes
  • Splenic dysfunction
  • Reduced immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)
  • Morbidly obese (defined as BMI of 40 and above)
  • All pregnant women (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season)
  • All children aged 2 and 3 years
  • All children in school years R through to year 5
  • People living in long-stay residential care homes, or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow the introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality.
  • People who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
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