Flu is now circulating on our community and, as you've probably seen on the news, is causing a lot of additional strain on NHS services, not only in General Practice but at the hospital and ambulance services as well. We thought that we'd provide an up to date blog to give you some additional information that is relevant to our community.
Firstly, the best way to prevent flu is by vaccination. If you're over 65, pregnant or belong to an eligible group (such as diabetes or chronic lung disease, etc), then you're eligible to have the immunisation FREE on the NHS. If you don't belong to one of these groups, you can still have the flu jab but you have to pay for it. Patients who pay for their jab can either get it from the Chemist or from us, once we've finished administering it to all of our vulnerable patients, whom we prioritise. Because we are currently prioritising our at risk NHS patients and many haven't yet had it, we've put on an extra clinic at our Pencoed Surgery on the afternoon of January 17th. Any of our eligible patients can attend this clinic, irrespective of whether they live in Llanharan or Pencoed. You can get more information and book your slot by phoning the surgery on 01656 867900. NB You must pre-book your slot. The practice, as some of you may know, is exceptionally busy at the moment and all of our staff are working flat out. The phone lines are generally quieter (relatively speaking!) in the afternoons.
There are several strains covered in this year's jab. We know that the vaccine that covers the strain that is currently doing the rounds in our area isn't 100% effective in everyone but it still worth having. Here's some information from Public Health England (Wales don't seem to have made a video) about the flu jab:
So that's prevention. What about if you get the flu?
The first thing to say is that flu and colds are two completely different things. If you've got the sniffles and a runny nose but can carry on your activities as normal, it ain't the flu! Proper influenza (which is circulating in our community) will put you to bed. You'll get a sore throat and runny nose, but will feel exceptionally tired, you'll be aching all over and will have a fever. The treatment is plenty of rest, paracetamol (if you can take it) and lots of fluids.
You will be infectious for 5-7 days from the onset of the illness and you should be sensible during this time and keep away from others. If you have uncomplicated flu, we don't want you spreading it to others at the surgery and at your workplace. Stay home, rest and phone if your worried. You can self certify yourself for up to 7 days from the first day of illness without having to see a Doctor. You can collect a "self certificate" form from reception (please send someone to collect it for you) or from your employer. A "Doctor's note" (proper name is a "fit note"), is a completely different certificate to a "self certificate" and ONLY applies after you've been off from work for 7 days or more. If you are unsure about sick notes, the DWP website offers more information. For simple treatments to alleviate and soothe a sore throat, liaise with your local Pharmacist.
Common misconceptions about the flu:
1. Antibiotics DO NOT treat the flu. If you have the flu, it won't get better with antibiotics. The only time that antibiotics are used are if a patient has had the flu but subsequently gone on to develop a separate, additional bacterial infection or pneumonia in addition to having the flu. These patients usually start off with a pre-existing illness (such as diabetes or chronic lung disease) and have a prolonged and more severe illness, breathlessness and often mucky, profuse sputum, sometimes associated with pain.
2. You can't catch the flu from the flu vaccine. Impossible. If you have had "the flu" after having the vaccine in the past, then you were going to get it anyway and had already contracted it just before you received the vaccine, but not actually from the vaccine itself. Sometimes you can feel mildly under the weather after the vaccine or have a mildly sore arm, but definitely not full blown flu.
3. Unfortunately, the flu jab doesn't offer 100% protection against all strains of flu. Every year, there may be different strains of flu circulating and the flu jab includes the most likely strains thought to "break out" in any given year. The vaccine offers variable protection to the different strains and responses differ in different age groups as well. Unfortunately, the flu jab offers a lower level of protection in some people to the current, most common strain, but it's still worth receiving the immunisation because you may be one of the people who ARE protected by it.
If you'd like to know more about symptoms and treatment of the flu, you should click the following underlined link for this excellent, peer reviewed, resource where you can safely check facts and get reliable information.
Finally, here's Dr Sarah Jarvis with some more facts about the flu