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.