Written by Zak Uddin MB ChB, MRCS, DRCOG, MRCGP
Co-Founder, Niche Jobs
With reports of the NHS in crisis, five hour waits in A+E and “a killer virus from Australia hitting our shores”, you may not be blamed for thinking that we are on the brink of an apocalypse, and now might just be the time to retreat to the safety of an underground bunker.
In the last week, the number of hospital admissions with flu has tripled, with almost 50 deaths reported so far. The strain, H3N2, has been dubbed “Aussie flu”
as it is the same strain that hit Australia six months ago during their winter season.
However, the strain itself is not new. It is that which caused the 1968 outbreak in Hong Kong, and has been circulating ever since. Indeed, the same strain was implicated in last year’s flu outbreak.
For the majority of people, the effects of flu are simple and thankfully short-lived. Symptoms are those of any viral infection, with raised temperature, sore throat, cough and muscle aches; sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea are part of the picture.
However, in the majority of fit and healthy individuals, the illness will resolve itself in 7-10 days.
The concern is more for those at extremes of age, or with underlying illnesses that make them more susceptible to complications ranging from pneumonia to meningitis.
Although aspects of healthcare (including sanitation and vaccination) have improved in the last 100 years, living longer means we have a larger elderly population who are more at risk.
Equally poor lifestyle choices and the rise of obesity with all its associated comorbidities result in a group of individuals who are more likely to suffer complications of otherwise simple illnesses.
The advice from Public Health England and the Royal College of General Practitioners remains the same. Despite being in the midst of the flu season, if you are without symptoms, eligible and have not yet had the jab, aim to get immunised now.
The current vaccine is effective against up to 60 percent of strains and if you are still unlucky enough to catch it, hopefully your symptoms will be milder and shorter-lived.
The basics still apply; catch any sneeze in a tissue, dispose of it and then wash your hands.
If your symptoms last more than 7-10 days and you aren’t showing signs of improvement, please consult a medical profession to assess your individual case.