Vaccine plea after 'Aussie flu' deaths in the Republic
People in Northern Ireland who are eligible for the free flu vaccination have been urged to get it without delay after a number of deaths in the Republic.
There have been up to 10 deaths in the Republic so far and doctors in Northern Ireland are not being complacent.
Australia recently experienced its worst winter flu season since a 2009 pandemic, and global circulation means an increase in cases here too.
However, the good news is that this year's flu vaccine has been developed to tackle the main strains circulating this season, including A(H3N2) - better known as Aussie Flu. But it is essential to get vaccinated annually if you are eligible.
Public Health Agency assistant director Dr Lorraine Doherty said: "Getting the free flu vaccine is the single most important thing you can do to help protect yourself against flu.
"With high levels of flu activity in Australia during their winter, and the potential for similar here, it is more important than ever that everyone who is eligible gets vaccinated.
"We are fortunate to have a more comprehensive flu vaccination programme than Australia or England, but the benefits can only be realised if a high proportion of the groups who can get the vaccine actually take up the offer.
"Everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated against flu should see it as a positive step in protecting their health and the health of others around them.
"It will also help reduce the burden on our health service during an already busy time of year. All Trusts here make flu vaccine available to healthcare workers."
The vaccine is offered as the best protection for people over 65, children and 'at-risk' groups because if they get the flu they are more likely to have a severe illness or develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.
Pregnant women are also more likely to suffer serious illness if they get the flu, which is why they will be invited by their GP to get vaccinated to help protect them and their unborn baby.