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Health Alert - Australian flu

15 Jan 2018

Top tips to keep you well this Winter

Each year in the UK during the cold snap many of us are more susceptible to catching a cold or the flu. 

Unlike the common cold, which starts with a stuffy or runny nose and sore throat, flu can be much worse. If you have it, it’s likely that you’ll suddenly get a fever, experience chills and, amongst other things, feel extremely tired.

There are two main types of flu (or influenza) virus that cause you to become ill: influenza A and influenza B. For each type there are different strains and variations of the virus. ‘Australian flu’ is a name being used to describe a particular strain of the influenza A virus. This is known as H3N2, which as the name suggests, has recently affected Australia.

Although there are vaccines to fight against flu, the influenza virus can adapt and change, which is why it isn’t always fully effective. To combat this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) collects data from around the world on the types, strains and variants of influenza that have caused illness. They collect this data from one flu season to the next. This is to make sure that they have all the information they need to develop a new improved vaccine, if needed. This year during their winter, Australia saw the highest level of flu since 2009. 

There are things you can do to help protect yourself and others: 

1. Get the flu jab. Getting the flu jab is particularly important if you are in a high risk group of which includes:

  • children
  • older people
  • pregnant women
  • people with low immune systems – this is the part of your body that fights infection
  • people with underlying health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease or respiratory conditions such as COPD or asthma (to name a few)

The flu vaccine is available free on the NHS to those in high-risk groups but if you are not in those categories or want to have the vaccine immediately, you can get it at a range of high street pharmacy stores and supermarkets such as Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy, Superdrug, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Like the NHS, Boots, Tesco, Lloyds Pharmacy and Superdrug offer the jab free for those deemed to be high-risk of complications if they get flu.

2. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. The influenza virus is spread through tiny droplets that travel through the air when you, or someone else, coughs or sneezes. These tiny droplets can be breathed in or picked up when you touch surfaces that they’ve landed on. So covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, is really important. Try to use a tissue to cover your mouth and remember to dispose of it safely in a nearby bin.

 3. Wash your hands. As simple as it is, washing your hands is arguably the most effective way to prevent yourself from catching or spreading flu to others.