Britain Hit By “Aussie Flu”: Everything You Need To Know

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Wednesday 10th January 2018

Every winter there is a flu season in the UK, however this year a particularly severe strain of flu that has hit the UK that has more severe side-effects than conventional flu. The strain, H3N2, is more commonly known as “Aussie Flu” as it is the same strain that led to its deadliest influenza season in nearly a decade, with doctors bracing themselves for potentially a similar situation in the UK and Europe.

As there is with any outbreak, there is often misinformation and speculation that can make finding the facts of a given case hard to ascertain. The first thing is that H3N2 is not new to the UK; it was one of the strains of the influenza virus that went around last winter in the UK.

Every winter a number of strains are spread and in order to protect as many people as possible, the World Health Organisation examines what strains are circulating across the world in a given flu season and makes recommendations for which strains should be protected against and are therefore part of the vaccine. This is produced six months in advance, due to the sheer number of vaccinations needed.

Because flu mutates so quickly, it’s nearly impossible to protect against all strains, and as such the flu vaccine is only distributed to specific at-risk groups, and even then the flu vaccine has an average protection rate of between 40% and 60%, according to Public Health England.

The typical symptoms of “Aussie Flu” are similar to any other strain of influenza, which includes symptoms familiar to anyone stricken with the illness. Headaches, sore throats, coughs, fatigue, congestion, fevers, aches and pains in the body and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea are what to expect, although more severe strains mean more severe symptoms.

Whilst flu symptoms for the most part are unpleasant but ultimately manageable with a week of bedrest, painkillers and plenty of fluids, for at-risk groups the dangers are more severe. These include the elderly, very young children, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections or otherwise have weaker immune systems. The symptoms in this case are usually the same, but take on a more severe or even dangerous form, and can lead to weakened immunity to bacterial infections such as pneumonia.

When more serious symptoms appear, such as sudden chest pains, difficulty breathing or even coughing up blood, this is usually caused by a bacterial infection and if you develop any of these symptoms you should call 999 or go to Accident and Emergency. Those at-risk individuals qualify to receive a free flu vaccine every year.

Prevention, as is common with many viral diseases is the best defence, and the first five days is when you are most likely spread the disease to anyone else, and the best prevention for Aussie Flu is the same as any other. Wash your hands with soap and warm water, catch sneezes and coughs in tissues and bin them as quickly as possible.