Flu is “circulating” the country, in the words of PHE, with statistics showing over the last week, an increase in hospitalisation and intensive care admission rates from 5.13 to 6.85 per 100,000 an from 0.23 to 0.35 per 100,000 respectively.
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GP consultations with flu-like illness have also increased, from 13.1 to 16.0 per 100,000.
As flu levels ramp up, PHE has activated the Catch It, Bin It, Kill It campaign to help prevent the spread of the highly infectious illness.
The campaign encourages the public to carry tissues and use them to catch coughs and sneezes, bin the used tissues as soon as possible and then wash their hands to kill the germs.
Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, Head of Flu, Public Health England said: “Flu season has now started and so it’s really important that people get their flu vaccine as soon as possible to ensure they are protected against this potentially very serious illness. The initial evidence suggests the vaccine is a good match for the main strain of flu that is circulating.
“Flu is very infectious and spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.
“To reduce the risk of spreading flu, use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands often with warm water and soap, and bin used tissues as quickly as possible. Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.”
Other health experts are warning the rise in flu cases could trigger a life-threatening condition – an asthma attack.
Asthma attacks kill three people in the UK each day, and every 10 seconds someone has a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
During an asthma attack the airways become swollen and inflamed, causing a person to cough, wheeze and have trouble breathing.
Emma Rubach, Head of Health Advice at Asthma UK, said: “Flu season can be a scary time for thousands of people with asthma as the virus can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks and put people in hospital with complications like pneumonia. These latest figures from Public Health England might worry many people with asthma, but there are two important things they can do to help protect themselves.
“Firstly, make sure you or your child has had the flu vaccine – you can speak with your GP surgery or pharmacist about getting this done for free if you have asthma.
“Secondly, it’s vital to keep taking your asthma medicines as prescribed so that if you do get flu, it’s less likely to trigger an asthma attack. Always carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you and speak with your GP or asthma nurse if you feel your asthma symptoms are getting worse due to a cold or flu.
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“We can answer questions about the vaccine and give advice on managing your asthma if you do get flu through our nurse-led Helpline and on our website: www.asthma.org.uk/flu”
How do you know if you have flu?
Flu symptoms come on very quickly, according to the NHS, and can include:
- A sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
- An aching body
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- A dry cough
- A sore throat
- A headache
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea or tummy pain
- Feeling sick and being sick
How to prevent flu
The best form of prevention against flu is the flu vaccine.
The flu jab is available at GP surgeries, but also Boots, Asda, Tesco, Lloyds Pharmacy and Superdrug.
If you’re not eligible for a free flu jab then the vaccine is available at a small fee.
The vaccine at Asda Pharmacy is £7 and booking are available now.
Superdrug is providing a walk-in vaccination service. The cost of the jab is £9.99.
From October, vaccinations will be available at selected Tesco Pharmacy stores in England and Wales.
You’ll be bale to make an appointment to have one, or receive one straight away after filling in a short questionnaire.
It takes 15 minutes, during which the pharmacist will explain the process and answer any queries, and costs just £10.
The flu vaccine at Lloyds is just £11.50. The healthcare team at your local pharmacist will be able to tell you what’s right for you.
The jab costs £12.99. You can book an appointment either in store or online.
Appointments for children ages 11 to 15 can only be booked in selected stores.
You are eligible to receive a free flu vaccine if you are:
- Are 65 years of age or over
- Are pregnant
- Have certain medical conditions
- Are an adult who is very overweight
- Are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
- Carers of a person whose health or welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
- Work in an adult care home and have regular client contact
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