Flu

flu

Every year approximately 8,000 people suffer flu-related deaths in the winter months in England and Wales. For most healthy people, flu is an unpleasant but usually self-limiting disease with recovery generally within a week. However, older people, the very young, pregnant women and those with underlying disease, particularly chronic respiratory or cardiac disease, or those who are immunosuppressed, are at particular risk of severe illness if they catch flu.

This winter, targets for immunisation have increased and are now set at reaching or exceeding 75% uptake for all at risk groups, which comprise:

  • aged 65 years and over
  • under 65s with long-term conditions
  • pregnant women.

For the first time, the flu immunisation programme has been extended to two and three year olds with the introduction of the new annual nasal spray flu vaccine.

Don’t Get Flu, Get The Jab

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust is encouraging people at greater risk from the flu virus to get a free flu jab from their GP.

Flu is a highly contagious infection that anyone can catch, and it can be really serious for some. People at most risk include those aged 65 or over, pregnant women, and those with health conditions such as severe asthma, chest or heart complaints, and diabetes.

The flu vaccine changes every year to fight the latest strains of flu, so even if you had a jab last winter you need another one this year.  The jab doesn’t contain the ‘live’ virus so it cannot give you the flu.

If you’re in any of the ’at risk’ groups, the flu jab is completely free, and is a safe way of protecting you and your family in a matter of minutes.

Simply contact your GP to arrange a convenient appointment and get your jab. It’s quick, safe and free for those most at risk from the flu virus.

For more information, speak to your GP or local pharmacist, or visit www.nhs.uk/flu.

Flu Jab Facts

  • The flu jab can’t give you flu
  • The flu jab is perfectly safe
  • The flu virus changes, so you need a flu jab every year
  • If you’re pregnant, the flu jab doesn’t harm your unborn baby. In fact it can protect your baby from flu for the first few months of life
  • The flu jab also protects against swine flu
  • The flu jab isn’t just for older people – pregnant women, those with health conditions, carers, and those with weakened immunity should all get the jab
  • The flu jab protects people of all ages

Norovirus

Norovirus is a highly contagious, easily transmittable virus and is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting) in England and Wales.

Historically, this was known as the ‘winter vomiting disease’ due to its seasonality and typical symptoms, although the disease is more prominent during the winter months infections can occur at any time of the year.

Although unpleasant, Norovirus is not normally dangerous and symptoms resolve within a couple of days

Symptoms of Norovirus include

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Some people may experience ‘flu-like’ symptoms.

Symptoms usually start between 12 and 72 hours following exposure and can last 12 to 60 hours, sometimes longer.  Most people make a full recovery within several days but some people (especially those who are immuno-compromised) may become dehydrated and require medical treatment.

Norovirus is typically spread through the faecal-oral route, physical ingestion of the organism, or through direct contact with an infected person or contaminated surface.  Viral particles can live on surfaces for prolonged periods of time making environmental contamination an important vector in the transmission of Norovirus.

Preventing the spread of infection

It is not always possible to prevent the spread of Norovirus but good hygiene can help prevent the virus from spreading. The most effective ways of limiting the spread of infection is by following the tips below:

  • Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water
  • Ensuring prompt cleaning of body fluid spills using detergent and disinfectants
  • Regular decontamination of frequently touched points
  • Avoid eating raw or unwashed produce
  • If you are experiencing symptoms you need to remain off work or school for 48 hours following your last symptoms

Please avoid visiting hospitals and care homes if you have experienced symptoms of diarrhoea and/or vomiting in the past 48 hours, Norovirus is highly contagious and is more serious in people who are already unwell.

Treatment

Norovirus is a self-limiting illness and there is no defined treatment. It is best to let the illness run its course, ensuring that you keep hydrated. If you are hungry eat foods that are easily digested, such as soup, rice, pasta and bread. Take painkillers if you are experiencing aches and pains.

There is no need to visit your doctor as there is nothing that they will be able to do for you, however you will need to contact your doctor if you are already experiencing a serious illness or if your symptoms last longer than a few days. It is advisable not to visit your doctor surgery as norovirus is highly contagious.

Extra care should be taken with babies and small children with diarrhoea and/or vomiting to prevent them from dehydrating, this is achieved through giving them plenty of fluids, including milk and water.

For more information please visit http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Norovirus/Pages/Introduction.aspx