Here's how you can differentiate whether you have Aussie flu or the normal flu virus
The HSE confirmed just last week that first flu deaths have been recorded in Ireland for this year as the dreaded 'Aussie flu' sweeps the country.
Flu rates are currently standing above the baseline threshold a level which means that flu is actively circulating in the community, according to the Director of Health Protection Surveillance Centre, Dr Kevin Kelleher.
Normal flu symptoms to be looked out for are a sudden fever, aches, exhaustion, a dry chesty cough, headaches, sore throats, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and trouble sleeping.
Symptoms for Aussie flu are generally the same but far more severe, with children generally experiencing extreme ear pain.
The HSE have said that people tend to recover from a normal flu after seven days, so if you are still feeling poorly after a week, it could be an indication that it's something more serious.
JOE spoke to Dr Kelleher about the Aussie flu and what can be done to treat it:
''The Aussie flu is actually the same virus which was prevalent in Ireland last winter. De facto the Aussie flu is actually the Irish flu in Australia. We had a bad winter last year with a particularly large amount of elderly admitted into hospital.
''Generally speaking, two or three flu viruses are always circulated at any one time and the HSE attempts, with the vaccine, to target these. However, they are different viruses and they all have slightly different impacts and variations, some affect the elderly more some effect pregnant women more, some are milder and some are stronger.
''This year what we seem to have, in the early stages of flu season that we are in now, is a mixture of the flu virus from last year and the B virus that we’re experiencing this year.
''The B virus isn’t coped with fully in the vaccine that was administered in 2017, but last year’s virus is partially coped with in the stream that’s in the vaccine.
''We’re actually still early in the current flu season which normally lasts 8-12 weeks, 5 weeks minimum and up to 16 weeks maximum.
''What we would anticipate is the season’s peak in week or two week’s time and then it will start declining quite sharply.''
And as for his recommendations to those who are suffering:
''Stay at home, drink lots of fluids, and take paracetamol for the pain. Those infected shouldn’t go out and mix with others to avoid spreading.''
High-risk groups are:
- All those aged 65 years and older
- People including children with chronic illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, chronic neurological disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders and diabetes
- Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment and all cancer patients
- All pregnant women. The vaccine can be given safely at any stage of pregnancy.
- Those with morbid obesity i.e. Body Mass Index ≥ 40
- Residents of nursing homes, old people's homes and other long stay facilities
- Health care workers and carer’s of those in risk groups
Those individuals in the ‘at risk’ groups can get the vaccine for free as they are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they catch flu, with many ending up in hospital.
The HSE has reminded those individuals in high-risk groups that it is still timely to get vaccinated against influenza, as the number of reported cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) in Ireland has increased in the past three weeks.