Prince Phillip Hospital in Llanelli

WITH a recent rise in the number of recorded cases, health professionals are reminding people affected by flu to think carefully before seeking further medical assistance.

To ensure busy emergency services and GP practices are able to save lives and help those most in need, it is important to remember the vast majority of healthy people with symptoms of flu don’t need to see a doctor.

Flu is a viral infection for which antibiotics are not helpful – instead, the advice if you believe you may have flu symptoms is to stay home from work, school and other public places for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone to avoid infecting other people, drink plenty of fluids, take ibuprofen or paracetamol and avoid any contact particularly with vulnerable individuals while you have symptoms.

Most people will feel better within a week of becoming infected with the flu virus, although coughing may last for another one or two weeks. People are advised to have a look at the NHS Direct Wales symptom checker for cold and flu advice.

Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda explains how people can look after themselves this winter: “The first line of defence should be for people to get their flu vaccination so I would urge those of you that haven’t had your vaccine to contact your community pharmacy for advice on whether you are eligible. This is particularly important as we are now seeing cases of flu in the community, with numbers set to rise over the coming weeks.

“Free flu vaccination is available every year to people in at-risk groups – including those aged 65 and over, people with certain long-term health conditions, pregnant women, frontline healthcare workers, carers and young children. Anyone who has missed out on vaccination this year should speak to their pharmacist for advice; it is not too late for you to protect yourself and your family by having the flu vaccine.

“Health and social care workers are also strongly advised to get their flu vaccination from their local occupational health departments to protect the patients they care for.

“Viruses such as flu can be extremely serious for sick and vulnerable patients and we are asking for your support to protect patients and healthcare workers including not going to visit patients in hospitals and care homes if feeling unwell, we want to limit the spread of conditions such as flu and Norovirus.”

To help reduce the chances of flu spreading, people should:
•         Catch it: always cough or sneeze into a tissue
•         Bin it: dispose of the tissue after use
•         Kill it: then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to kill any flu viruses

The public are also reminded to use local community pharmacy services to help reduce pressure on busy A&E departments this winter. These include a Common Ailments Service which covers a number of conditions whereby participating pharmacists can assess and provide medication at no charge, if suitable, without the need for a prescription and also, in participating community pharmacies, the Triage and Treat service to support those affected by low-level injury or illness. Visit www.hyweldda.wales.nhs.uk/winterwise for further details.

Mrs Jervis added: “We’re asking people who may be experiencing flu-like symptoms to call their GP surgery or visit https://www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/SelfAssessments/symptomchecker/coldflu rather than attend the surgery or an A&E department, which can increase the risk of spreading infection to others.”

More information on flu is available at www.beatflu.org

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