Although relatively irritating and uncomfortable, catching a bout of the seasonal flu is quite common in Europe during the winter. This year, however, health bosses are concerned about the impact a specific outbreak of flu could have on the general public and the hospitals. With Australia and New Zealand recently experiencing its worst outbreak of flu in years, there are concerns that it could head to the UK next.
What is the flu?
The flu (short for influenza) can be caught at any time of the year, but it’s mainly common in winter, and is also known as ‘seasonal flu’. This usually lasts a week and the common symptoms to watch out for include:
- High temperature (38 C or above)
- Tiredness and general fatigue
- Aches and pains
- Dry cough, chesty cough
- Sneezing and sniffles
How likely is a British flu pandemic?
The flu season in the UK and the Northern Hemisphere, often reflects that of the Southern Hemisphere and it is thought that the same virus will head here for the British flu season, which usually begins in November and lasts until March. NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens believes that the winter flu season means the NHS would be under severe pressure to cope, as health services Down Under suffered too. He said: “We know we’re going to have more hospital beds open, we know we are better prepared, but we also know that the pressures are going to be real.
“The signs from Australia and New Zealand, who are just coming out of their winter, are that it has been a heavy flu season and many of the hospitals down there have struggled to cope. We know that there is a great deal of work to be done over the next six to eight weeks with our partners in local authorities to put the NHS on the right footing for the winter ahead.”
Who is at risk from the flu?
Young children, those already suffering with ill health and the elderly are particularly susceptible to the H3N2 strain. Australian figures suggest there was a spike in cases among children between the ages of five and nine so children this age may be more at risk. In the UK, GP surgeries will offer free flu jabs to millions of children and adults who are particularly susceptible such as; children aged between two and eight, pregnant women, residents of long-stay care homes and anyone aged between six months and 65 deemed at clinical risk.
How can I protect myself against the flu?
You can reduce the risk of contracting the flu by practicing good hygiene. Always scrub your hands after using the toilet, leaving a very public space or an area where more people may be infected. You should also be sure to clean surfaces like your computer keyboard, telephone and door handles to get rid of germs and dispose of tissues as soon as you use them.
Concerned about your health this upcoming Winter? LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor offers the flu vaccine which can be administered in one of their many pharmacies. Enquire today for greater protection against the flu.