DOCTORS are urging high-risk patients to get the flu jab after scores of people with serious respiratory illnesses are swamping emergency departments.
Cases of flu are soaring across Wales.
A&E departments in Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend are being inundated with frail elderly patients, with chronic respiratory illnesses who have gone on to have pneumonia.
Some patients have been so seriously ill they have had to be treated in high dependency and intensive care units. The situation has led to GPs to call on patients in high-risk groups to get the jab now.
ABM University Health Board Emergency Consultant, Andy MacNab said: "A lot of patients are arriving as emergencies because they are suffering with serious breathing difficulties and respiratory illness. These patients already have underlying health problems which makes catching the flu all the more dangerous for them.
"If you are in a high-risk group go to your GP now and get a flu jab – it isn't too late. It will help protect you and possibly save your life."
High-risk groups are: over 65s; over 6 months with a long term health condition; pregnant women; immunosuppressed or living with someone who is; carers, and those living in residential or long-stay care.
Cathy Dowling, ABM Head of Midwifery explains why pregnant women are in the high-risk group, added: "It's because of the complications caused by the flu.
"Pregnant women are 4 – 5 times more likely to have serious problems from flu and require intensive care treatment. Also, having flu during pregnancy increases the risk of having a premature birth and problems such as foetal distress.
"We are encouraging mum-to-be to have the flu jab as it reduces these risks and also provides baby with immunity for the first few months of life when infection can be very serious.
"From talking to mums-to-be we're aware some are concerned about having a vaccination when pregnant. There is no need to be scared, studies and reviews show the flu jab is safe both for mum-to-be and baby. But if you are concerned please talk to your GP or Midwife before making a final decision."
The flu jab is free and you can have one by contacting your local GP surgery. The jab is safe, with only minor side-effects such as a sore arm.
It isn't possible to get flu from the flu jab as the vaccination does not contain live or active flu virus.
If you do get the flu around the same time as having the vaccination it is more than likely a coincidence.