More and more cases of flu are being seen in Scotland and we are now beginning to have people ill with flu in our local communities, schools and in our hospitals.

Everyone has heard the word 'flu' and knows someone who's had it.

So sometimes it's easy to think that influenza (usually shortened to flu) is not serious, or simply to consider it to be a bad cold. This is not the case.

Influenza is a real risk. In Scotland, flu kills more people than any other vaccine-preventable disease.

No matter how healthy you are, how often you wash your hands, or even if you’ve had the flu vaccination in previous years, anyone who has contact with other people can be at risk of contracting influenza this year.

This is why it is so important to take advantage of the best possible protection against flu: the vaccination. The flu vaccination is specifically designed to provide protection against the four influenza strains that are most likely to be in circulation. To maximise the vaccine's impact, get the flu jab early in the flu season, as it takes around 14 days to become effective.

Dr Maggie Watts, NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, said: “Influenza kills some of the people who contract it every year, and we are now starting to see the impacts of this infection throughout our islands. Help us to protect you by taking up your vaccine offer now, and have a safe and healthy festive season.

“The flu vaccine is currently the best protection against flu. The vaccine is safe and getting the vaccine will help to protect you, your family, your colleagues and anyone who you come into contact with during the winter months."

NHS Western Isles would strongly encourage parents/guardians of children aged 2-5 years (children are eligible for the free nasal vaccine), people with a long term health condition, unpaid carers and adults aged 65 years and over to contact their GP practice to get their free flu vaccination.

Children in primary school are also eligible for a free flu vaccination; the schools have all been visited but you can still have your child vaccinated by contacting your local school nursing team.

If you are pregnant, contact your midwife to get your free flu vaccine.

"We have plentiful supplies of influenza vaccine here in the Western Isles, so please call your GP practice, midwife or school nursing team to organise a free flu vaccination."