NHS sends out warning that winter bugs like flu and norovirus must be taken seriously

With the second half of January bringing with it Yorkshire and the Humber’s first real cold snap of the winter season, the NHS has warned of the impact of circulating winter bugs like norovirus and the flu.

By Stephanie Bateman
Friday, 01 February, 2019, 06:52
Flu should be taken seriously

The latest data from Public Health England shows that in the two weeks to 20 January 2019 there were 12 recorded outbreaks of norovirus, 11 of which led to ward/bay closures or restrictions to admissions.

To date, this season (since week 27 2018), there have been 128 outbreaks of norovirus reported causing 123 ward/bay closures across England.

Certain infections are more common during the winter, particularly influenza and norovirus. This is due to a combination of factors, but includes factors to do with the bugs themselves, and the fact that they may spread more easily when we spend more time together indoors. Influenza is responsible for a number of deaths each year and affects the same vulnerable groups as cold weather.

The statistics show that over the last week, seasonal flu continues to circulate across the UK, with early signs that activity is starting to peak.

With flu continuing to circulate in Yorkshire and the Humber at medium intensity, at higher levels than in the South of the country, health bosses are advising there’s still time to get the flu vaccine and urging all those who are eligible to make sure they get it sooner rather than later. The vaccine is the best defence against flu, which while in most people is self-limiting, can be serious in groups with weakened immune systems.

Paul Twomey, Joint Medical Director for NHS England in Yorkshire and the Humber, said:“The early indications from PHE suggest that the strains of flu circulating are well matched to those in this season’s flu vaccines, so if you If you know anyone who may be at risk from flu encourage them to get protected.

“NHS staff continue to pull out all the stops with flu and norovirus cases continuing to rise as expected in January, although thanks to closer working between hospitals, local health groups and councils, fewer people are spending long periods in hospital compared with this time last year.

“With temperatures set to stay low, it’s more important than ever that people help doctors, nurses, paramedics and other frontline staff provide care to the most seriously ill, by getting the free flu jab if you’re eligible, and by using the NHS 111 service as the first port of call for non-emergencies.” 

Flu top tips

Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people. You're more likely to give it to others in the first 5 days.

Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

If you do have flu-like symptoms, help us help you by:

caring for yourself at home – for the majority of people, flu will be a mild illness that usually will resolve supported by managing symptoms.

You can rest and sleep, keep warm, take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

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If you have a long-term condition that means you’re at greater risk of the complications of flu, you may need to seek advice from your GP.

using tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze

binning used tissues as quickly as possible

washing your hands often with warm water and soap

avoiding visiting relatives in hospital until your symptoms clear.

Norovirus top tips

You can usually treat yourself or your child at home. You should start to feel better in a day or two.

stay at home and get plenty of rest

drink lots of fluids, such as water and squash – take small sips if you feel sick

eat when you feel able to – you don't need to have or avoid any specific foods

take paracetamol if you're in discomfort – check the leaflet before giving them to your child

avoiding visiting relatives in hospital until your symptoms have stopped for 2 days

Visiting your GP surgery with norovirus can put others at risk, so it's best to call your GP or NHS 111 if you're concerned or feel you need advice.

For more health advice this winter, please visit www.nhs.uk/staywell