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Flu Levels in Wales are the Highest in Four Years - say Health Chiefs

The situation has sparked a warning from health officials for people to do all they can to protect themselves and stop the spread of the illness.

 

Flu levels are the highest in four years in Wales

Visits to GPs, hospital admissions and admissions to intensive care units of confirmed cases of influenza (flu) have all increased across Wales.

The most recent figures (as of the first week of January, 2015) show 277 patients have been confirmed to have flu since the first case was diagnosed in mid-December, with the majority of these cases being reported in hospitals.

Cases are now at their highest level since the winter of 2010/11.

But not everyone who has symptoms of flu will be routinely tested, which means the actual number of people who have had flu is likely to be a lot higher.

At least 3,000 people have also visited their GP with flu like symptoms, with those aged 35 – 44 and the elderly, most affected.

There have also been a number of influenza outbreaks across south, mid and west Wales in hospitals and care homes for the elderly.

Public Health Wales is urging those in 'at risk' groups to get their free flu vaccine to protect themselves against the illness, and for all those with symptoms to take measures to prevent the spread of flu.

Dr Richard Roberts, head of the vaccine preventable disease programme at Public Health Wales, said, "Recent figures suggest that this winter will be the busiest flu season Wales has seen for several years.

"Most viruses being detected are influenza A (H3N2) viruses, which particularly affect the elderly and adults in at-risk groups. Influenza B viruses are also being detected, which usually affect children more than adults.

"It's important for those with symptoms of flu to get treated and reduce the risk of spreading flu. But it's not too late to get the vaccine. For vulnerable patients who haven't yet been vaccinated it will still give them some protection for the rest of this season."

Healthcare and social care workers with direct patient contact, carers and people most at risk of the complications of flu are recommended to have a flu vaccination. This includes everyone aged 65 and over, people with certain long term health conditions and pregnant women.

Children aged two, three and four on August 31, as well as children in school year 7, have also been offered the nasal spray flu vaccine in November and December.

Flu immunisation is available from GPs and some community pharmacies in Wales and is free on the NHS for those most at risk.

The public are also being reminded to take the proper precautions to help reduce the chances of flu spreading.

Anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms is encouraged to follow three simple steps to prevent the illness from spreading: Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.

'Catch it' – always cough or sneeze into a tissue

'Bin it' - dispose of the tissue after use

'Kill it' - then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to kill any flu viruses.

Dr Roberts added: "Once flu is circulating widely, apart from vaccination, following 'catch it, bin it, kill it' and staying away from others while you are ill are the only methods that can help prevent spread.

"Always use a tissue to catch sneezes, throw away used tissues where germs can linger and always kill germs by washing your hands with soap and water, or cleaning them with a sanitising gel. If you have children, you should help them to follow this advice.

"In a household where there is a case of flu, you should clean hard surfaces such as door handles and worktops regularly using a normal household cleaning product."

Anyone with symptoms of flu in 'at risk' groups should seek advice from their GP. Those at high risk of complications from flu can be offered anti-viral drugs which may reduce the risk of serious complications if started within two days of the first symptoms.

Those with symptoms of flu who are not in high risk groups should drink plenty of fluids, take ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve symptoms, and avoid contact with vulnerable individuals while they have symptoms, which usually resolve in about a week.

Flu is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms generally come on suddenly, and can include fever, chills, headache, cough, muscle aches and fatigue.

The flu virus spreads easily via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection.

Any individual that feels unwell with flu-like symptoms can get advice on treatment from the NHS Direct Wales website or the helpline on 0845 46 47.

 

 

Source: South Wales Evening Post

 

 

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