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The worst flu season in history could hit the UK, warns NHS

Netdoctor logo Netdoctor 13/09/2017 Natalie Healey

The worst flu season in history could hit the UK, warns NHS © Tetra Images / Getty The worst flu season in history could hit the UK, warns NHS The NHS has warned that we could be due the worst flu season in its history.

The prediction comes from Australia and New Zealand – who are just coming out their winter. Both countries have had a "heavy flu season" with many hospitals struggling to deal with demand.

NHS chief Simon Stevens said scientists would be re-examining the current flu vaccines amid fears that they may not hold off the particular strain of flu that is likely to cause the most problems this year. He said the H3 flu strain was likely to be the main threat.

Australia has reported 98,000 cases of flu this season – which is more than double the rate it was this time last year. Twice as many people have been hospitalised. 

Flu symptoms

Flu is especially common in winter and it's definitely not the same as a cold. The symptoms tend to come on more suddenly, be more severe and last for longer.

The main symptoms include: 

  • A high temperature
  • Tiredness and weakness
  • A headache
  • General aches and pains
  • A dry, chesty cough

In the UK, free flu jabs are offered to all over 65s, pregnant women, young children, NHS staff and people with long-term conditions. Officials say that it's too early to say whether the situation in Australia and New Zealand has been caused by an ineffective vaccine or simply bad luck.

NetDoctor pharmacist Rita Ghelani says: "The World Health Organisation (WHO) assesses the strains of flu virus that are circulating in the northern hemisphere during the winter months and recommends three flu virus strains that should be contained in the vaccine for the following year. The strain of flu virus mutates every year, meaning your vaccine from last year won't protect you. This why you need to have your flu jab annually."

At the moment, scientists believe the current vaccine is a good match for the type of flu likely to cause misery in the UK this winter, but unfortunately the strain of flu can mutate as it spreads across the globe, rendering the jab less effective. 

Should you get the flu jab?

The flu jab is the best protection we have against an illness that can be dangerous for young children, older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying health condition. It's never a guarantee you'll be fully protected against the virus, but if you do contract the illness, it's likely to be milder and shorter-lived than if you didn't get the jab.

It's best the get the vaccine in Autumn, from the beginning of October to early November, but you can still get it later in winter too. Ask your pharmacist for more information.

Related: Six Things That Might Be Causing That Headache (provided by HuffPost UK)

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