A BRUTAL influenza strain has hit the UK from Down Under – leaving Brits facing the worst flu season in 50 years.
But what exactly is Aussie flu, and how is it different from the normal winter bug? Here’s what we know…
Getty – Contributor Aussie flu is a potentially deadly strain of the winter bug
What is Aussie flu?
The strain of flu is called H3N2, and public health expert Professor Robert Dingwall, from Nottingham Trent University, warned it was “almost inevitable” the winter bug will hit Britain this winter.
The number of flu deaths in Australia over their winter has not yet been released, but it’s thought to be the worst in years.
Earlier this year Aussie flu claimed its first victims in Ireland – as the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) revealed a number of people have already died from the virus.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, from the Health Protection department, told Independent.ie: “There have been a few deaths already… under 10 people have died so far this year.”
Some 4.5million people are thought to have been struck down by flu over the past week, according to the online tool FluSurvey.
One in four hospital cases of flu are thought to be patients battling the “Aussie strain”, with 17 people admitted to intensive care with the strain in the week before Christmas.
FluSurvey This map shows how most of the country has been affected by the ‘Aussie flu’, with red areas the most heavily hit
Which areas of the UK have been worst hit by Aussie flu?
A surge in infections has seen cases of the new H3N2 strain skyrocket in recent weeks as the NHS faces a seriously challenging flu season.
Plymouth, Doncaster and Durham are revealed as Aussie flu hotspots while other parts of the country have no recorded outbreaks, according to a map compiled by the FluSurvey website.
Dartford is one of the last areas to have cases reported, with Essex, Teesside and Devon appearing to be among the worst-hit regions.
Dorchester in Dorset and the City of London as of January 6 were the only places where no one has yet reported an “influenza-like illness” – with churches even banning handshakes in an attempt to curb the spread of infection.
It relies on patients self-reporting so the true figure in each region is likely to be far higher.
The flu virus has continued to spread across the UK, including a rise in cases of the H3N2 ‘Aussie’ strain, correct as of Friday January 5 and Sunday January 7
How many people have been affected by Aussie flu?
Public Health England revealed 1,649 people had been struck down with Aussie flu over the Christmas week, up almost half on the week before.
And at least 73 have already been admitted to hospital, causing doctors to urge people to get vaccinated – as the flue “actively circulates” in Ireland.
Professor Dingall previously told the Daily Express that this is the most serious flu epidemic since the 1968 pandemic that started in Hong Kong – and killed a million people worldwide.
H3N2 is a mutated strain of flu, meaning the vaccine in Australia has been less effective than hoped.
Mum-of-two Jennifer Thew, who’s originally from Germany, was one of those to die from flu in Australia in September.
She died from acute respiratory distress syndrome caused by flu – even though she worked as a medical receptionist and had been vaccinated against it.
Getty – Contributor If you don’t recover after a week, it could be a sign that you know a more serious strain of flu
What are the symptoms of Aussie flu?
Symptoms of Aussie flu are similar to those caused by normal flu, but they are more severe. Here are some signs to look out for:
Sore throat and cough Headache Fever Muscle ache Fatigue Runny nose and sneezing
People should recover from normal flu within a week so, although the cough and fatigue may last longer.
So if you’re still really ill after seven days, it’s a good indication of something more serious.
Aussie flu can lead to pneumonia and other potentially fatal complications.