HEALTH chiefs are urging people to have their flu jab, after new figures showed people are dying and becoming seriously ill with the condition.

One woman is known to have died of swine flu in Bolton and a child has now died in Bury, which comes after a man and woman lost their lives in the town.

According to the Health Protection Agency, there have been 39 flu deaths nationally, all but three of them connected to swine flu.

More than 700 people are in intensive care with flu across the country, but the Royal Bolton Hospital would not reveal how many cases it had.

As of Thursday afternoon Fairfield General Hospital in Bury had two critical care patients with flu. However, the number of cases in Bolton has recently fallen dramatically and the town has the lowest rate in Greater Manchester.

Health chiefs have, though, continued to make an urgent appeal for people eligible for the flu jab, especially the under 65s, to make sure they are immunised.

Graham Munslow, health protection specialist at NHS Bolton, the town’s primary care trust, said: “If you are eligible please please have your flu jab, especially pregnant women and those with chronic respiratory and neurological diseases.

“It really could make the difference between life and death. For most people flu is mild but it can be serious and can kill.”

Flu cases in Bolton fell dramatically the week ending December 19, to a rate of 8.6 per 100,000.

And in the f o l l o w i n g seven days they stayed at the same level. That compares to a rate of 77.1 two weeks ago.

Health experts locally said the figures, though fluctuating, were what could be expected at this time of year.

Those at risk include those with long term health conditions, like asthma and heart conditions, pregnant women and the over 65s.

● Some practices no longer have stocks of the jab because the traditional immunisation period is over, but patients will be directed to a pharmacy where they can collect it to be vaccinated.

Anyone experiencing flu like symptoms and not in the at risk group, should stay at home and self care, contacting NHS Direct on 0845 4647 if they need advice.