The term "Aussie flu" has been bandied about a lot over the last fortnight, but what actually is it – and do we need to be concerned?
Aussie flu got its name because the particular strain of flu, known as H3N2, recently wreaked havoc in Australia. The country's 2017 flu season was particularly bad, with a 50% rise in flu cases compared with 2016 and about 370 confirmed deaths, ABC News reported.
There has been a sharp increase in reported flu cases in the UK in recent days. An online map, Flusurvey, is being used to document cases of "influenza like illnesses" reported by members of the public and reports suggest there has been a surge over the last 24 hours, with most areas of the country displaying symptoms.
Is it serious?
Flu viruses are categorised based on their type – A, B and C, with A being the most serious and C the least. Aussie flu is an influenza A virus, so in that sense it's more serious than certain types of flu, and can be deadly for the most at-risk groups. Aussie flu is just one of a few strains circulating in the UK this year.
Am I at risk?
As with other strains of flu, Aussie flu is more dangerous to certain groups of people than others, including the elderly, pregnant women and children. Those with underlying health problems, such as diabetes, lung disease or heart disease, are also more likely to experience more severe symptoms, as well as those with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or on chemotherapy.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Aussie flu are similar to those we're already familiar with: fever (temperature above 38C), nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, sore throat, difficulty sleeping, headache, aches, tiredness, coughing, loss of appetite, etc.
The symptoms last for about a week and most people will recover by themselves without needing hospital treatment. You should only see your GP if you're among the most at-risk groups or your symptoms don't improve after seven days. In the most serious cases – of people experiencing chest pain, having difficulty breathing or coughing up blood – sufferers are being advised to call 999 or go to A&E.
Should I get a vaccine?
If you're not among the most at-risk groups (or a frontline health and social care worker), who qualify for a free flu jab on the NHS, it's up to you whether you decide to be vaccinated. The jab can be bought from high-street pharmacies and reportedly takes up to two weeks to kick in.
What should I do if I have it?
As with any type of flu, Aussie flu sufferers are being told to stay in bed, drink lots of fluids and take ibuprofen and paracetamol to treat the aches and pains.
Is the NHS coping?
Hospital admissions and GP appointments for flu rose steeply going into the new year, but the numbers aren't unusually high compared to recent years and are so far much lower than when swine flu swept the country in 2008-09, the BBC reported.
"Flu activity, as measured by a number of different systems, has continued to increase in the last week or two," said Nick Phin, Interim Deputy Director for National Infection Service at Public Health England. "This is to be expected as the season progresses, and while no two flu seasons are the same, the numbers are in-keeping with previous years." Nevertheless, it's worth having your hand gel at the ready.
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