Fight flu with jab and soap

AS the inhabitants of Downton Abbey succumbed to Spanish Flu on Sunday evening a flu expert says a simple slogan could have saved lives.

Mike Lilley, from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), says people need to remember that ‘coughs and sneezes spread diseases’ and good hand hygiene is essential to prevent the spread of the flu virus.

The flu vaccine is also incredibly important for those who may be particularly vulnerable such as the over 65s, pregnant women and people with serious illnesses, and is available from your GP.

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Mr Lilley said: “It is important to get the flu jab every year as there are new strains of the virus all the time and the jab only offers one year’s protection.

“Each year scientists develop a new flu jab for the strongest strains that year.

“You can catch flu at any time but it is more common during the winter months as people tend to congregate indoors and the germs get passed to one another a lot faster.”

Flu germs can live outside of the body so if you sneeze or cough and then touch something like a door handle, desk or flush the toilet, that virus will be transferred and someone else can pick it up and catch it.

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However, ordinary soap and hot water will kill 90-95 per cent of viruses and other bacteria too.

Vulnerable people in particular need to be vigilant as flu can leave even the healthiest of people very weak.

HPA consultant in care Mr Lilley said that people often say they have had a ‘touch of flu’ when they just have a cold, but in fact flu is so severe that if you catch it you will be in bed for a few days unable to move, and will spend days after that feeling washed out.

He said: “Thinking back to my time as a GP, one of the diagnostics we used for flu was if I stood at the end of your bed and said I’ve got £50 if you can reach out and get it, someone with a cold would be up like a shot but someone with flu would say forget it. It’s that severe, if you have ever had it you will know the difference. You are really laid low.”

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As the Health Protection Agency and the Luton and Dunstable Hospital prepare for this year’s flu season, Mr Lilley says they are trying to predict how many cases of flu there will be.

He said: “At the moment things are looking the same as in previous years. Two or three years ago we had the pandemic flu and these things happen every so often, they are not that predictable so an outbreak could strike at any time.

“That’s why every flu season we really push the vaccine and try to make people aware of how they can stop the spread of the virus. We may get a severe flu season but if people use basic hygiene and get the jab they can protect themselves.”

If you do get flu or the winter vomiting virus, Norovirus, the best thing to do is stay indoors so as not to spread the germs, take paracetamol to get your temperature down and drink fluids.

Do not visit anyone in hospital if you have flu symptoms as the spread of germs to vulnerable patients could prove fatal.

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