83% of asthma sufferers intend to take flu jab 

83% of asthma sufferers intend to take flu jab 

Rachel Murray. who has severe asthma, is calling on people to take the flu vaccine. Picture courtesy Asthma Society of Ireland 

A survey of people with asthma has found 83% of them intend to take the flu vaccine this year, with almost one in eight saying they took the jab last year for the first time.

Up to mid-April last year, 103 influenza deaths were reported and during the 2018/2019 flu season, 97 people died. The 2017 season saw 261 deaths, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

This survey of people with asthma and their carers found 77% of the 1,602 respondents took the flu vaccine last year, with 12% doing so for the first time.

Sarah O’Connor, chief executive of the Asthma Society said: “It’s great to see such a positive response to vaccine uptake. It is so important to take extra precautions this time of year, and we know that colds and flu, along with respiratory infections, can be triggers for many people with asthma.” 

She urged asthma sufferers, anyone who spends time with asthmatics or other people with respiratory illnesses to consider the vaccine this year.

A teacher with severe asthma who could be hospitalised with the effects of the seasonal flu has also called on people to get the jab.

Rachel Murray relies on three inhalers daily, a nebuliser and three types of tablets, including an oral steroid to regulate her breathing.

“I’ve been quite shocked to hear people saying they won’t get the flu vaccine,” she said. “Any level of protection you can offer yourself is really important, you are lowering the risk of infection for yourself and others.” 

Ms Murray has spent a lot of time in hospitals as a patient, and said they are so busy even without Covid. She once spent five nights on a trolley waiting for a bed.

“By Christmas and January I know the hospitals will be over-flowing. The less flu there is around, the less risk for everyone,” she said.

Precautions

Waterford GP Dr Dermot Nolan, former national clinical lead on asthma for the Irish College of General Practitioners, said precautions taken against Covid-19 can also limit the spread of flu.

“As we enter into flu season there are several things you can do to help minimise your chances of being infected with the flu virus or, if you do catch the virus, stop it spreading to others around you,” he said.

“Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, throw away the tissue and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards. Try to avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose, especially after coming into contact with an ill person.” 

He said as with Covid-19, regular hand-washing can minimise spread, as can cleaning surfaces like phones, keyboards and door handles.

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