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Keep warm keep well message from health bosses

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By Hayley Robinson

Health bosses are urging people to keep warm to keep well this winter.

A breakdown of figures from the Office for National Statistics show eastern and coastal Kent reported 300 extra winter deaths in 2007/2008.

Across the patch, Canterbury saw the highest rates with 130 excess winter deaths compared to 20 in Swale.

Nationally, the number of extra deaths in England and Wales last winter (2008/09) was the highest since 1999/2000.

With the recession biting and people feeling the pinch of heating bills, Swale residents are being urged to seek the help that’s out there to make sure they keep their homes warm.

Children, the elderly and people with disabilities or long-term health conditions are the most at risk but by keeping warm they will be better equipped to fight off bugs – including seasonal flu and swine flu.

Andrew Scott-Clark, deputy director of public health at NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent said: "We’re more likely to feel the chill in winter and being cold lowers our immune system, making it more difficult for us to fight off bugs.

"Every year, 8,000 people in England and Wales die from seasonal flu. Winter is flu season because the virus that causes it lives longer in cold and dry air. The flu doesn’t like hot weather as much as it likes the cold days of winter.

"When it is cold outside the flu virus finds it much easier to spread as it can live longer on surfaces.

"If you are struggling to pay for extra heating costs you maybe eligible for a range of benefits and help to heat your home.

"Even if you’ve been turned down in the past, you may find you now quality for some means of support."

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