HUNDREDS of Airedale Hospital staff are to be vaccinated against flu.

They will receive free jabs from next week at special 'flu fighter' stations set-up across the Steeton hospital.

The move comes as NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens warns that hospitals should be prepared for a "more pressurised" flu season this winter.

Last year, more than three quarters of staff at Airedale were vaccinated, to not only protect themselves but also family members, colleagues and patients.

Karl Mainprize, medical director at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Flu isn't just a bad cold, it is a contagious and potentially serious illness, especially for elderly people and those with long-term illness.

"It's vital that as many of our staff as possible are vaccinated, as they can carry and pass the virus on to others without having any symptoms.

"Even though they may consider themselves healthy, they could be putting the lives of others at risk."

The NHS also offers free vaccinations to people considered to be at risk.

Eligible groups include the over 65s, pregnant women, those aged two and three on August 31 this year, all reception class children and those in school years one to four, people living in residential and nursing homes, carers for older and disabled people and anyone with certain medical conditions, such as chronic respiratory disease.

People should contact their GP practice if they are in one of the risk groups.

Anybody not classified as at risk but who wishes to have a vaccination can pay for a jab at high street pharmacies.

An NHS spokesman said: "Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why it's sometimes called seasonal flu.

"It's a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly.

"The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles and extreme tiredness.

"Healthy individuals usually recover within two to seven days, but for some the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death."

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