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Aussie flu has hit the UK: how can you stay safe?
Concerns surrounding the strain suggest it could result in thousands of flu cases across the country A (H3N2), also known as ‘Aussie flu’, has reached the UK and Ireland after spreading throughout Australia. The country has been warned that it could result in the worst flu outbreak for 50 years. In Australia, the virus affected up to 170,000 people – an increase of 250% on last year’s total. As a result, there were over 300 reported fatalities due to the flu. And the flu has also taken lives closer to home. In recent days, the first fatalities of Aussie flu have been reported in Ireland, presenting a genuine health threat to the elderly and other vulnerable groups. Public Health England’s latest flu report has also revealed that nine individuals have been admitted to a high dependency unit or intensive care due to the A(H3N2) strain. A further five were admitted to hospital. The specific locations of these cases were not revealed. Some Accident & Emergency units have even confessed to being “standing room only” as more and more people seek treatment for the viral infection. This shows just how important it is to understand more about this current health threat, so you know how to avoid it and how to treat it effectively. What is Australian flu? Simply put, there are three different types of influenza virus: A, B and C. The main differences between the more common A and B strands is that type B influenza can only affect humans. What’s more, type A influenza tends to result in more severe symptoms than other types of flu. A(H3N2), or Aussie flu, belongs to the A strand of the viral infection. It first affected Australian residents in mid-2017, during their winter. Now, it has spread to Ireland and the UK. What are the symptoms of Australian flu? Dr Richard Pebody is the acting head of respiratory diseases at Public Health England. He has explained that the symptoms of the virus can be similar to other strains of flu, but in many cases are more severe. Potential symptoms of Aussie flu include coughing, exhaustion, achiness, headaches and migraines, fever, congestion, sore throat and vomiting and diarrhoea. Dr Pebody warns that elderly individuals are particularly at risk of Australian flu, and that care home managers should be especially cautious in order to prevent potentially fatal outbreaks. But what’s the best way to maximise resistance to the virus? How can you prevent infection? The flu vaccination is the single most effective way to reduce your risk of acquiring any strain of influenza. The Public Health Agency says it is essential for those eligible to get vaccinated annually for influenza. Dr Jillian Johnston of the Public Health Agency has said: “Getting the free flu vaccine is the single most important thing you can do to help protect yourself against flu. “With higher levels of flu activity in Australia during their winter, and the potential for similar here, it is more important than ever that everyone who is eligible gets vaccinated.” The flu jab is offered for free to individuals at risk of infection, including those aged over 65, pregnant woman and children aged six months to two years old. Will the flu jab help protect you from Aussie flu? The flu vaccination is the best course of protection against the Australian flu virus, as it is designed to protect against A, B and C strands of flu. The fact that Australia experiences winter earlier in the year has allowed members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to implement the Aussie flu into the current vaccination being offered in the UK. So simply put, you have a better chance of avoiding Aussie flu if you receive the flu jab. However, it is important to remember that the vaccination is not a guaranteed means of avoiding the virus. Speaking to BBC Breakfast on 5th January, Dr Fari Ahmed explained that around 40% of people who receive the jab may still experience flu symptoms due to the way the flu virus mutates, leaving members of the WHO having to predict how best to cover it with a vaccination. This means that it’s always good to practice other precautions against the spread of Aussie flu, including washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose with tissues when you cough or sneeze, and keeping surfaces clean. How do you treat flu? There is no set cure for flu once you have acquired it, so prevention is the best course of action. However, if you do get it, it will clear up by itself after around a week. Rest, sleep, staying warm and hydrated and using painkilling medication are all recommended for easing recovery. If you are vulnerable or find that your flu symptoms are becoming more serious — experiencing vomiting, diarrhoea or heavy fever — then you should contact a healthcare professional. Only contact A&E or 999 if you develop chest pain, breathing difficulty or blood when you cough. Staying safe is always important, whether you’re home or abroad. To ensure your 2018 is as safe and healthy as possible wherever you are, contact the team at Express Travel Clinic. Call us on 0208 993 58 89 or click here to book an appointment today.
Why and what you need to know about diphtheria
With fresh outbreaks of the infection making the headlines, it is important travellers know everything they can about diphtheria before heading abroad. Diphtheria has seen news coverage recently due to fresh outbreaks across Haiti, and a shortage of the vaccination to prevent the infection in Venezuela. In Haiti, this has resulted in more than seventy cases, of which almost three quarters are children under the age of ten. This had led to three fatalities so far, whilst in Venezuela five lives have been lost due to a shortage of the vaccination. Incidents like this are tragic, and remind us how important it is to be up to date on our travel health. That’s why we’ve put together this vital and necessary guide to diphtheria, including what it is, what symptoms to look out for, and how the condition can be both treated and prevented. What is diphtheria? Diphtheria is a highly contagious bacterial infection which, as these incidents show, is potentially fatal. It mainly affects the nose and throat, as well as sometimes affecting the skin. It’s extremely rare in England as nearly all of us have been vaccinated against it, but when travelling to areas such as Africa, South Asia and the former Soviet Union, you need to be careful and take precautions. What are the symptoms of diphtheria? The symptoms of diphtheria can be uncomfortable, shocking and potentially fatal. One of the main signs of the infection is a thick greyish-white coating at the back of the throat. As a result of this, sufferers may also experience a sore throat and breathing difficulties. They may also experience a high temperature of 38C or above. Around one in ten people who get the diphtheria infection will die due to complications, which normally involve breathing difficulties, inflammation of the heart or problems with the nervous system. Older adults and people with a weakened immune system are more at risk of the effects of diphtheria. Children are also more susceptible to the infection and should be vaccinated against it at two months of age as part of the routine vaccination schedule. What causes diphtheria? As stated, diphtheria is extremely contagious. It is spread through coughs and sneezes, or through a person already affected or items belonging to them such as clothing and bedding. It’s usually caught after prolonged close contact with an existing sufferer of the infection, so people that you live with or remain close to whilst travelling could be the source of the infection. How do you treat diphtheria? The diphtheria infection must be treated quickly in order to prevent serious complications from occurring. Treatment is usually comprised of antibiotics and antitoxin medication, and anyone suspected of having the infection is put in isolation upon arrival at hospital. Those who develop heart or nervous system conditions will require specialist treatment. How can you prevent diphtheria? By far the best way to avoid and prevent diphtheria from occurring is to obtain the appropriate vaccination. For many of us, this occurs in childhood, but many places recommend reinforcing protection against the infection with a new diphtheria vaccination every ten years. This vaccination is available from Express Travel Clinic, and is administered as part of a booster vaccine against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio. Receiving this vaccination before you travel to at-risk areas is the only way to truly give yourself peace of mind against the infection. Make sure you don’t put yourself at risk. If you’re travelling far afield for your winter break, make sure you do it safely. Contact Express Travel Clinic today on 0208 993 5889 to book an appointment.
Latest Blog Posts
- Aussie flu has hit the UK: how can you stay safe?
- Why and what you need to know about diphtheria
- Hepatitis A & B vaccine shortage: How to stay safe when travelling to a country when the vaccine is not available
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