Aussie flu could be set to return to the UK this winter and experts are advising on the importance of getting this year’s flu jab. Aussie flu last swept across the UK in 2017, and the strain was a subtype of influenza A called H3N2. The symptoms of Aussie flu were described as being similar to normal flu but worse. The strain hit Australia during its winter earlier this year, and more than 200,000 people were reported to be affected.
Aussie flu can affect anyone and the flu vaccine may not protect against this new strain because viruses often mutate between when the virus is engineered and when infection happens
While the flu jab is the best form of protection against the virus, there is a chance the vaccine may not protect against the new strain.
Dr Andrew Thornber, chief medical officer at Now Patient, explained: “Aussie flu can affect anyone and the flu vaccine may not protect against this new strain because viruses often mutate between when the virus is engineered and when infection happens (this is always the case, regardless of subtype of flu and vaccine given).
“Those most likely to get it (and to suffer a more severe illness) are the elderly or immunocompromised (long-term steroids, those on immune-modifying drugs or chemotherapy for instance), those with long-term health conditions, children and pregnant ladies.”
It’s still advised people get the flu jab. The vaccine is routinely given free-of-charge on the NHS to these ‘at risk’ groups of people.
People who fall into this category include:
- Adults 65 and over
- People with certain medical conditions (including children in at-risk groups from 6 months of age)
- Pregnant women
- Children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2019
- Children in primary school
- Frontline health or social care workers
For people who don’t fall into any of these groups, the vaccine can be purchased at a small cost at GP surgeries, as well as some pharmacies and supermarkets.
Flu can often be treated without seeing a GP, but people should begin to feel better in about a week.
Symptoms of both normal flu and Aussie flu to watch out for are listed by the NHS:
- A sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
- An aching body
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- A dry cough
- A sore throat
- A headache
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea or tummy pain
- Feeling sick and being sick
Flu is usually treated with rest and sleep, by keeping warm, taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower temperature and to treat aches and pain, and by drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
A pharmacist can also best advise on the best treatment to use, but GPs don’t recommend antibiotics because this won’t relieve symptoms or speed up recovery.
If you or your child experiences sudden chest pain, experiences difficulty breathing or starts coughing up blood, you should call 999 or go to A&E.
You can pay and book to have the vaccine at the following pharmacies and supermarkets. Most also offer the free jab on the NHS.
The vaccine at Asda Pharmacy is £7 and booking are available now.
Superdrug is providing a walk-in vaccination service. The cost of the jab is £9.99.
From October, vaccinations will be available at selected Tesco Pharmacy stores in England and Wales.
You’ll be bale to make an appointment to have one, or receive one straight away after filling in a short questionnaire.
It takes 15 minutes, during which the pharmacist will explain the process and answer any queries, and costs just £10.
The flu vaccine at Lloyds is just £11.50. The healthcare team at your local pharmacist will be able to tell you what’s right for you.
The jab costs £12.99. You can book an appointment either in store or online.
Appointments for children ages 11 to 15 can only be booked in selected stores.
Different types of flu vaccine are available for different groups of people. Find out which one you need here.
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