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Fit and healthy? You may still be knocked over by Aussie flu

January 2018


woman sick in bed

Many people still consider flu to be simply a bad cold that takes a bit longer to get over. But flu can come in all sorts of strains and serious flu should never be considered lightly.

The flu virus that is hitting so many people in the UK right now has been termed “Australian” flu. Australian’s say the problem has now subsided over there but sadly it is beginning to take its toll over here.

This latest flu is indeed one of the really serious strains; it is now being described as a hyper virulent strain and is causing Britain’s worst flu crisis for 20 years. The virus’s strength and unusually long recovery time means there is serious concern about fatalities, especially in vulnerable groups, and figures show that over 80 people have already died from it.

Professor Robert Dingwall, who used to help advise the Government’s flu pandemic planning committee, says a major problem is the instability of the flu virus. It can mutate at random and suddenly acquire deadly virulence. Professor Dingwall says the Australian flu is not new, but vulnerable groups don’t appear to respond as well to the vaccine as might have been hoped, and so it is more serious. The normal flu vaccine being given here in the UK is said to only have 20-30 per cent effectiveness against this latest strain of flu, known as H3N2, although other reports indicate it can offer higher protection.

But either way the flu is causing big problems already and the forecast is that things will get a lot worse before getting better.

This latest flu can cause a range of symptoms including:

  • a general feeling of being unwell or lethargic
  • a sudden high fever
  • aches and pains across the body
  • a cry chesty cough
  • nausea and being sick
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain

Along with this, people can suffer from a lack of appetite and difficulty sleeping. Different symptoms do not mean the cause comes from different flu viruses; the same flu strain can affect people in different ways.

Generally you should be okay to treat the virus at home, with plenty of bed rest and staying hydrated. Ibuprofen, paracetamol, over the counter cough medicine or other treatments suggested by your local pharmacy should help and generally recovery should start after a few days although this flu can leave a lingering dry cough that is hard to get rid of.

However, if you still feel terrible after a week, if your cough worsens a lot, especially if you start coughing up blood, or if you are especially vulnerable due to existing health problems or age, then it is important to get fast and proper medical advice through either 111 or your doctor.

Another key aspect is that, even if you don’t feel too bad, you may be very contagious...this type of flu is especially so, with the flu germs living on hands and surfaces for 24 hours. So it is vital you wash your hands often with warm water and soap; and use tissues to trap germs during a cough or a sneeze; then bin the tissues immediately.

Also, if you have suffered from flu this year, this does not mean you will be immune now. Flu comes in so many different strains, some quite similar, and in a weakened state you may be vulnerable to catching another type.

All in all, this particular flu is not something anyone wants, but because of its strength, there is a lot of advice around. The chemist chain Boots have put together some good web pages on the flu which are being updated regularly:

webmd.boots.com/aussie-flu


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