Flu season expected to be ‘worse than usual’ with more cases of the virus.

A North Devon GP has urged people not to put their lives at risk and take advantage of their free flu vaccination.

Dr Bruce Hughes, who is a partner at Fremington Medical Centre and a GP leader in Devon, said the flu season would be 'worse than usual', with more cases.

The vaccination is now available in GP practices across North Devon and Torridge.

Groups including pregnant women, young children, over 65s, carers and those with long-term health conditions are more susceptible to flu and its effects, which include fever, chills, headaches, coughs and joint and muscle pain.

Dr Hughes said: "Initial indications suggest that this is going to be a worse flu season than usual, with more cases, so I'd encourage people to take action and have the flu vaccination at their local GP practice.

"As the weather becomes colder and we head towards winter, the flu virus begins to circulate widely in the community so it's important that vulnerable people are protected as soon as possible.

"Don't take risks with your health - the vaccination is still the first line of defence against flu, as it helps protect against the changing strains of the virus that circulate each year.

"Having the vaccine only takes a few minutes out of your day and offers protection against a virulent virus, potentially stopping both you and your loved ones and carers from falling ill too.

Dr Hughes also urged people not to underestimate the virus, which in its worst cases, can lead to death.

He added: "People should not underestimate the effects of seasonal flu - it is not the same as getting a cold.

"Flu can knock you off your feet and make it hard to look after children or go to work. In the most serious cases, seasonal flu might land you in hospital - it can even be a killer.

"Flu can make vulnerable people more likely to suffer complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia and can make existing conditions worse.

"Studies have shown that the flu jab does work and will help prevent you getting the flu. It won't stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary between people, so it's not a 100% guarantee that you'll be flu-free, but even if you do get flu after vaccination it's likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been."

People should speak to their GP practice about how to access the vaccine. Some surgeries will be offering dedicated flu clinics.

For more information about flu, and the vaccination, visit the NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk