‘Dramatic’ increase in flu cases treated by doctors
CASES of influenza have increased “dramatically” in the past fortnight in Wales and have led to dozens of people needing hospital treatment.
Public Health Wales has confirmed that 800 people were diagnosed with flu-like illnesses by GPs across Wales over the two-week Christmas period.
There have been 195 confirmed influenza cases in Welsh hospitals – with over half of these in the last two weeks – and 25 patients have needed a stay in intensive care.
More than 10 outbreaks of flu have been confirmed in hospital wards and care homes, most occurring in the last two weeks.
At-risk groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and people with a long-term health condition are being urged to get their flu jab to protect themselves against the virus.
Public Health Wales says the strain currently circulating in Wales can affect older adults and the elderly particularly severely.
But in recent weeks numbers of younger adults and teenagers seeing their GPs with influenza symptoms has also increased.
Dr Richard Roberts, head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said: “Flu is now on the increase in Wales.
“Those in risk groups should have been vaccinated by now, but it’s not too late to get this protection if you haven’t already.
“Most viruses being detected are influenza A(H3N2) viruses and the flu vaccine offered this season is expected to provide good levels of protection.
“We expect the flu virus to circulate at increased levels in Wales for six to eight weeks, with lower levels even longer, so it is important to ensure that remaining eligible people are vaccinated as quickly as possible to help protect them for the rest of this season.”
Healthcare and social care workers with direct patient contact, and also carers, are strongly recommended to have a flu vaccination to protect them from catching flu and spreading it to the people they care for.
Dr Roberts added: “It’s also important that anyone in a risk group developing symptoms of flu seeks early advice on treatment.”
Unlike the common cold which may develop over several days, flu symptoms usually develop very rapidly. Signs include a high temperature and often include a headache, aching muscles, extreme tiredness and cough.
Most people with symptoms of flu don’t need to see their GP and 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.
Those in at risk groups who think they have flu are advised to contact their GP or NHS Direct Wales (0845 46 47) for advice as soon as the symptoms start as anti-viral medication may be recommended.
Dr Roberts said: “Once flu is circulating widely, apart from vaccination, following ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ advice and staying away from others while you are ill are the best methods that can help prevent spread.”