It is rumoured England is facing potentially its worst flu season in fifty years. Public Health England has released statistics around the suspected deadly ‘Aussie flu’ outbreak in the UK that has thus far triggered over 1000 cases. There are concerns that the epidemic could overwhelm the NHS; having affected over 90,000 people in Australia, the disease is now set to strike the UK in a potentially similar fashion.
Flu and the UK
The annual death rate for flu in the UK is approximately 12,000, usually affecting the most vulnerable of the population – including the sick and elderly. Routine surgeries have been cancelled nationwide ahead of the peak flu season to ensure that there are less vulnerable patients in the wards, and to keep those most at risk safe. There is already a nationwide bed shortage following a spike in norovirus in wards across the country.
170,000 cases of flu have been reported across Australia this season; two and a half times more than the previous year. The specific H3N2 strain of flu which hit is a mutation of the flu virus, and meant that the vaccine was less effective than normal. Usually the UK will be hit by just one sub strain per year, but this year we are expected to receive two separate sub strains of the virus.
What to look out for
The symptoms of the Aussie flu strain are similar to those of normal flu, but more severe. “Symptoms include a high temperature or fever along with coughing, sneezing and a runny nose. Likewise, it can also bring on aches and pains, with feelings of weakness or fatigue,” explained Dr Steve Iley, Medical Director for Bupa UK, in the Standard.
If you find that you are suffering a significant amount after seven days there is a chance it is something more concerning than the standard flu bug. Most at risk are the elderly, pregnant women, young children and anyone suffering from a chronic disease. If you find yourself fitting one of these categories, and feel unwell over the coming weeks, seek advice from a medical professional.
The flu vaccine is still recommended as an important line of defence against the flu season – including these strains we’re now seeing. Nick Phin of Public Health England has stated: “The circulating flu strains match those in the current flu vaccine, so the vaccine remains the best defence against the virus.”