Friday, 19 December 2008

Flu Warning issued

With flu rates increasing across the region the Health Protection Agency (HPA) North West is advising people on what they can do to protect themselves and others from infection on the run up to Christmas.

“We’re seeing increases in flu in most parts of the region, but particularly in Liverpool, Wirral and parts of Cheshire," warns Dr. Catherine Quigley, Regional Epidemiologist with HPA North West.

“This is a highly infectious viral illness for which there is no treatment, other than rest and the replacement of fluids. Most people who are otherwise fit and healthy will recover quite naturally from a bout of flu.

“However, flu can be serious for older people and for those whose immune systems are suppressed by illness or treatment. I can’t stress enough how important it is for these vulnerable patients to protect themselves by having a flu jab. If they haven’t been vaccinated already, it’s not too late.”

Dr. Quigley stressed that healthcare workers should be vaccinated against flu.

“The advice to people suffering from flu, heavy colds or other viral infections is to rest at home and take lots of drinks. Flu is spread by droplets in the air and on surfaces, so care should be taken to cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and hands must be washed thoroughly after contact with mucus, after going to the toilet and before eating,” Dr. Quigley said.

“There is no benefit in people with flu, flu-like symptoms or heavy colds visiting their GP surgeries or hospital Accident and Emergency Units where they might pass on infection to other more vulnerable patients. If in doubt they should arrange a telephone consultation with the family doctor or phone NHS Direct, the 24-hour health information service.”

The warning about flu comes hot on the heels of requests from North West Ambulance Services to think twice about using emergency call numbers if your situation is not life threatening as staff are performing 'near miracles' to keep the service going. The Telegraph reports pressure has been particularly bad in London, the North West and the West Midlands but the whole of the NHS in England is under pressure according to experts.

• The NHS Direct number is 0845 4647.

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