Manchester United's Paul Scholes is backing the UK's Department of Health flu immunisation campaign, which launched today.
The high-profile campaign uses TV, radio and press advertising, as well as information in GP surgeries, hospitals and pharmacies, to encourage those at particular risk from flu to claim their free jab.
This year the campaign particularly encourages people with chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes, as well as all those 65 and over, to protect themselves against flu by having their free jab.
Paul Scholes, who has asthma, said:
"Staying fit and healthy is vital for me and for my career. I can't afford to be missing games and a bad bout of flu could put me out of action for at least a couple of weeks. As an asthmatic, I have to be particularly careful because the likelihood of flu developing into a more serious illness is much higher than with many others. I'll be getting my jab this year and I'd urge anyone with asthma who is worried about coming down with the flu to have the jab too."
Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said:
"The flu is not a severe cold: it can be a serious illness, and three to four thousand deaths are linked to flu every year.
“If you suffer from a chronic illness like asthma or diabetes, or are 65 years or older, you are particularly at risk from flu. This means that if you do catch flu, it is more likely to lead on to a more serious illness. The flu jab is the most effective protection from the flu. That’s why our message for this year’s campaign is ‘If you knew about flu, you’d get the jab.’”
“If you suffer from one of these chronic conditions or you are 65 or over, you should contact your local general practitioner for this year’s free flu jab.”
Donna Covey, Chief Executive of Asthma UK, said:
"Approximately 4.3 million people in England have asthma and for many of them, especially those with severe or difficult asthma, having flu could be a major concern. We would recommend that anyone who has asthma should discuss with their GP the possibility of having a flu jab and the benefits to their health."
Simon O'Neill, Director of Research and Care at Diabetes UK, said:
"Flu can really upset the control of your diabetes, causing your blood glucose levels to fluctuate. People with diabetes are a high risk group when it comes to flu and by not getting the jab they are leaving themselves open to the threat of health problems. There is also an increased risk from complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis."
Last year, over 70% of people aged 65 or over had their flu jab. This year, the Department of Health will be measuring uptake of the flu jab by anyone who is at risk from flu, not only those aged 65 and over.
To find out more talk to your GP or pharmacist or call NHS Direct on the number below, or visit the website address provided.
Also today, the Department of Health launched a campaign today to help older people “Keep Warm Keep Well” over the winter. The campaign aims to reduce the number of cold-related illnesses and deaths this winter. Older people, their carers, health and social care professionals and other vulnerable people can call a special Winter Warmth Advice Line (Freephone 0800 085 7000) for practical help on keeping warm and staying healthy. There is also a free Winter Guide available from the advice line with a range of practical tips.