Nurse’s video message urges colleagues to get the flu jab

Leanne Thomas tells of sister’s death due to complications following influenza

Leanne Thomas tells of sister’s death due to complications following influenza

Leanne Thomas speaking on the video message

A practice nurse whose 32-year-old sister died after contracting influenza last year has urged healthcare staff to get vaccinated against the virus.

Leanne Thomas recorded a poignant video message for Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust to encourage nurses and other staff to receive the flu vaccine.

Watch: Leanne's story


In the video, Ms Thomas said her sister, Chantelle, who had been a healthcare assistant, had no history of long-term health conditions and was normally resilient in the face of illness.

Flu led to ‘really severe symptoms’

Chantelle contracted the flu virus in January 2018 and was ill for about three days before appearing to recover.

However, Ms Thomas said her sister then developed ‘really severe symptoms’.

‘By the time the paramedics had arrived she had already stopped breathing,’ said Ms Thomas.

'When they took her to hospital, she was pronounced dead, and, when we arrived, they said that when they did the blood test, [it showed] she had contracted influenza, which led to sepsis and multiple organ failure.’

Nurse says healthcare workers have a duty to get the flu jab

Ms Thomas said she hoped that sharing her sister’s story would highlight the importance of healthcare professionals getting vaccinated.  

‘We weren’t prepared, despite the fact I am a health professional and my mum is. None of us recognised the symptoms, because it happened so fast,’ she said.

'I would strongly recommend healthcare workers to have the flu vaccine, especially front-line workers, because although we are there to protect our patients, we also need to protect ourselves.’

Video’s personal story aims to inspire nurses to take action

The trust’s director of nursing Helen Willetts said Ms Thomas’s story was ‘a sobering reminder’ to everyone – including staff – about what flu can do.

'She wants this message to be a legacy for her sister – get your flu jab, it saves lives,’ said Ms Willetts.

On average, 8,000 people die from flu in England each year, although the figure can be higher, according to Public Health England.

For example, it is estimated there were 26,000 deaths associated with flu in England in 2017-18. 

The RCN recommends that all staff have the flu jab in order to protect vulnerable patients, but it stops short of calling for vaccination of healthcare staff to be mandatory.

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