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Here's what you need to know about the flu going around

With the various strains of flu going around you can likely get sick multiple times if you haven’t been vaccinated.

Updated Jan 9th 2018, 7:30 PM

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

IT’S FLU SEASON and cases of influenza-like illnesses have risen since the end of last year.

The addition of the Australian flu hasn’t helped matters as hospitals and GP services struggle to maintain the flow of patients.

Dr Ray Walley, North Dublin GP and IMO GP Committee Member, says GPs are “run off their feet” with the amount of patients coming in with the flu.

“It’s definitely busier than other years – we’ve needed more staff than ever before.”

The Australian flu is also complicating matters. When it hit Australia in 2009 vaccines were only around 30-40% effective against it.

So what can you do to keep yourself well this flu season?

Symptoms of seasonal flu

shutterstock_680919733 Symptoms will usually peak after a couple days Source: Shutterstock/HBRH

The HSE says the seasonal flu can give you these kinds of symptoms:

  • Sudden fever (a temperature of 38°C/100.4°F or above),
  • Dry, chesty cough,
  • Headache,
  • Tiredness,
  • Chills,
  • Aching muscles,
  • Limb or joint pain,
  • Diarrhoea or stomach upset,
  • Sore throat,
  • Runny or blocked nose,
  • Sneezing,
  • Loss of appetite, and
  • Difficulty sleeping.

Symptoms will usually reach their peak after a couple of days and you should begin to feel much better within a week’s time, though lingering side effects like fatigue and a cough might persist.

How it’s spread

Like you would expect: from the millions of tiny droplets that come out when you sneeze or someone coughs. The flu virus contained in the droplets can survive away from the body for up to 24 hours.

If they land on your office computer keyboard, touching that surface can spread the virus around when you then touch something else.

Types of flu

  • Type A occurs every year and is more serious than type B. The virus is likely to mutate to a different version to which people have no resistance.
  • Type B generally causes a less severe illness and is responsible for smaller outbreaks. If you have been infected with this, your immunity to further flu B infections may last for many years. Flu B can affect all ages but mainly affects young children and can be aggressive to older people.
  • Type C usually causes a mild illness similar to the common cold.
  • Australian Flu – the influenza A (H3N2) strain currently circulating in Australia – is similar to the H3N2 strain which dominated last year’s flu season in Ireland and in Europe (2016/2017).

How to treat it

shutterstock_610136594 Rest is the best medicine Source: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

Lots of rest seems to be the only sure cure. Take paracetamol-based over-the-counter medicines to lower your temperature and help with pain relief.

Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids while taking to bed for the two or three days you might need to shake it.

Parents with children who have flu-like symptoms are urged to keep their kids at home so they can recover and keep it contained.

At-risk groups

The following groups have a greater chance of developing complications and serious illness from the flu:

  • People aged over 65 and over
  • People with chronic medical conditions e.g. long-term heart, lung, kidney, liver or neurological disease, HIV, diabetes or those with a weakened immune system due to a treatment (ie chemotherapy) or disease.
  • People living in nursing or residential homes where there is a higher risk of the virus spreading.
  • Pregnant women (the vaccine can be given safely at any stage of pregnancy)
  • Those who are morbidly obese
  • People, including children, with a chronic illness that requires regular medical follow-ups
  • Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment, and all cancer patients
  • Healthcare workers and carers of those in high-risk groups

Both the HSE and Dr Walley urge people to get the flu vaccine even if you have already had the flu. Due to the various strains of it currently going around you can get hit twice despite already been sick.

Dr Walley also states that antibiotics do not cure the flu and could lead to avoidable side effects that could make you feel more unwell.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated get it done now,” he said.

Read: ‘Just one third of hospital nurses have had the flu jab despite raffles and free coffee incentives’

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