Placing your hands on shop counters and bus handle bars can be the first step to picking up a cold or the flu, according to Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmer.
She is urging people to wash their hands thoroughly after they’ve blown their nose and use lots of soap to in a bid to curtail the expected severe Aussie flu outbreak.
Antiviral gel provides a good quick-fix if you can’t find a hand wash basin straight away, she said.
And a nasal spray will also help to fight off the virus at the first signs of infection, she added.
Her warning came after fears have been raised that a severe strain of Aussie flu is heading to Britain. The NHS is bracing itself for a surge in patients struck down by the virus – particularly, the elderly.
Pharmacist Angela Chalmer is urging people not to touch counters or bus handle bars to avoid catching flu (stock photo)
VIRULENT STRAIN OF FLU FROM AUSTRALIA HEADING TO HE UK
The head of the NHS has warned that a strain of flu that has caused huge problems in Australia is thought to be heading our way.
Simon Stevens said that the h3n2 strain has been particularly severe in the elderly and children.
Australia – whose winter occurs during our summer – has just experienced one of its worst flu outbreaks on record with more than 100,000 cases, two and a half times the normal number.
Hospitals have been overwhelmed and ambulance services in some areas have been told to only attend the most urgent cases.
The flu season in the UK and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere tends to mirror what has happened in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere, and the same strains of the virus will circulate north.
‘Help prevent getting a cold by being careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth when you’ve been in public spaces as this can transfer the virus to yourself,’ Ms Chalmer told The Express.
‘Particular watch-outs are handle bars on public transport and shop counters.
‘When cough and cold seasons strikes, make sure you’re prepared by keeping a nasal spray close to hand to help fight the first signs of cold and flu symptoms.’
When you wash your hands, she advises doing so for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday to yourself twice.
Public Health England (PHE) has launched its ‘Stay Well This Winter’ campaign to urge people who are most vulnerable to flu to get their free vaccination.
This year, the vaccination is being offered to more people than ever – around 21 million people in total.
Children in school year 4 will be offered the vaccine for the first time and children over age 4 in reception year can get their vaccine in school.
Around 6.3 million people under 65 in England have a long-term health problem and are more at risk of suffering potentially fatal complications from flu, which can include bronchitis, pneumonia and worsening of existing conditions.
Professor Paul Cosford, PHE’s medical director, said: ‘This year we are offering the nasal spray vaccine to more children than ever.
‘Ensuring children get vaccinated is extremely important not only to protect them from flu but also to stop then spreading it to vulnerable groups they come in to contact with.
‘For someone with a long term health condition like asthma or COPD, flu has the potential to turn very serious.
‘We want as many eligible people as possible to get their jab, as it is the best way to protect everyone from flu and minimise the burden on the NHS during the season when it faces the most pressures.’
PEOPLE WHO SHOULD HAVE THE FLU JAB
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk. This is to ensure they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications.
You are eligible to receive a free flu jab if you:
Front-line health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine.