‘Dra­matic’ in­crease in flu cases treated by doc­tors

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

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.”

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