Cases of influenza (flu) in Wales have fallen this week from their peak last week, but remain at high levels.
In the week ending 28 January 2018 the number of people diagnosed with influenza-like illness in general practices in Wales was 53.0 out of every 100,000 population, down from 74.7 per 100,000 the previous week.
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said:
“Although cases of flu in the community appear to be are falling, there are still high levels of flu circulating which will continue to cause illness for many weeks.”
Flu spreads easily and can be serious, especially for those in risk groups such as pregnant women, those aged 65 or over or with a long-term health condition.
Good hygiene practices help reduce the spread of flu, but annual flu vaccination is the single best way to protect against catching and spreading flu. Ideally the vaccine is given before flu starts to circulate, but having a flu vaccine can still offer significant protection if given now.
More people in Wales have had a flu vaccine this year than ever before, with over three quarters of a million in target groups vaccinated so far and 20,000 vaccinated in January alone.
Vaccine is still available, and those who are eligible for a flu vaccine should contact their GP surgery or community pharmacy. This is especially important for those at high risk of complications from flu including those who have a weakened immune system, chronic neurological disease or chronic respiratory disease.
If you are in a risk group and have not had your flu vaccine yet this winter, don’t miss out on this important protection.
Dr Anthony Gibson, consultant physician and clinical director medicine and A & E at Cwm Taf University Health Board said: “Don’t underestimate how serious influenza can be, especially if you have other long term health conditions.
“If you are eligible for a free NHS flu jab, please ensure you have it.”
Dr Roberts added:
“Most healthy people with flu can care for themselves at home. They should drink plenty of fluids, take paracetamol or ibuprofen, keep warm and rest. Symptoms usually resolve in about a week.
“While you are unwell avoid visiting hospitals or care homes to help reduce the chances of spreading flu in these settings.”
Advice on self-care is available on www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk or from community pharmacists or NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 (or 111 in areas where the 111 Wales service is available).
“Most people do not need to contact their GP surgery if they think they might have flu, but people who are more vulnerable to complications should get early advice. Those who are aged 65 or over, have a long-term health condition, are pregnant or are worried about a young child should seek advice from their GP surgery, as should those whose symptoms are deteriorating or are not improving after a week.”
People should only attend A&E or call an ambulance if they need urgent care, for example feeling short of breath, chest pain or coughing up blood, or have other serious symptoms, or deteriorate quickly.
If you catch flu, help stop the virus spreading by staying away from other people if possible while you are ill, especially if they are very old, very young, pregnant or have a long term health condition. Follow the Catch it, Bin it, Kill it advice.”
- Catch it: always use a tissue to cough or sneeze into
- Bin it: dispose of the tissue after use
- Kill it: then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to kill any flu viruses
Limited stocks of vaccine are currently still available. Anyone in an ‘at risk group’ for flu who hasn’t had a flu vaccine this winter is advised to speak to their GP surgery or community pharmacy as soon as possible.
Vaccination against flu is offered free of charge by the NHS to people who are aged 65 or over, are pregnant, have certain long-term health conditions, or are unpaid carers. Nasal spray flu vaccine is also still available for children who were age 2 or 3 years on 31st August 2017.
Flu vaccine is also recommended for frontline health and social care workers to protect them and those in their care.