Flu? You can keep it!

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IF you think you have flu, don’t spread it around.

That’s the advice from East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which is reminding people to guard against flu, but also urging anyone feels unwell and might have flu to avoid passing it on by taking it into the hospital, schools or workplaces where the virus can spread rapidly.

This advice comes on the back of data from the Health Protection Agency which shows that cases of flu are on rise in the local area. Confirmed influenza cases across England rose sharply in the final few weeks of 2012. Last week there had been 18 confirmed cases in the East Lancashire end of the patch and 22 cases in Blackburn with Darwen area, affecting people of all ages.

Dr Ian Stanley, Deputy Medical Director at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “It is important that people are able to differentiate between flu and a heavy cold.

“Flu causes a sudden high temperature, headache and general aches and pains, tiredness and sore throat. You can also lose your appetite, feel nauseous and have a cough. The symptoms can make you feel so exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed and rest until you feel better. Symptoms peak after two to three days and you should begin to feel much better after a week or so, although you may feel tired for much longer.”

Dr Stanley added: “The Trust asks that people experiencing any flu-like symptoms please refrain from visiting the hospital to keep patients who are unwell and therefore at increased risk, safe from contracting the virus and from passing the virus on to staff. You are usually infectious – able to pass on flu to others – a day before your symptoms start, and for a further five or six days.”

Dr Gifford Kerr, Consultant in Public Health and local lead for flu, said: “If you are otherwise fit and healthy, there is usually no need to see your doctor if you have flu-like symptoms as you can easily pass on the virus to others. The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and you can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches.

“You should, however, see your doctor if you have flu-like symptoms and you are 65 or over; are pregnant; have a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney or neurological disease or have a weakened immune system.

“Flu can be much more serious for this group of people, and your doctor may want to prescribe antiviral medication which can lessen the symptoms of flu and shorten its duration, but treatment needs to start soon after flu symptoms have begun in order to be effective

“I’d also encourage all members of the public who have been invited to get the flu jab to make sure they take up the offer. Flu is not just a cold – it can be a really serious illness for some people and it doesn’t just affect people aged over 65. If you’re pregnant, have lowered immunity or a long term health condition such as diabetes, kidney disease, or asthma, or if you’ve had a stroke, then you should get your free flu jab from your GP and get flu safe – even now, it is not too late to get yourself protected from flu.”