Wednesday 18 October 2017

Explaining the strains of flu - and how to get the free vaccine

It is best to treat a cold or flu by resting, staying warm and keeping well hydrated. Stock Image
It is best to treat a cold or flu by resting, staying warm and keeping well hydrated. Stock Image

Ian Begley

The strain of influenza named A(H3) is the main flu virus circulating in Ireland - and it is expected to increase over the coming weeks.

There are a number of viruses active at this time of year - and many are very hard to shift. Antibiotics do not cure the viral cold or flu.

It is best to treat a cold or flu by resting, staying warm and keeping well hydrated.

Those at risk include people over the age of 65, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses, and residents of nursing homes and other long-stay facilities.

H3N2 flu started circulating early in Ireland this winter season. It is a subtype of influenza A. Although flu symptoms are typically similar, no matter the strain of influenza, history has shown that seasons in which H3N2 influenza A is the dominant strain were more severe.

Both viruses are very contagious and can cause severe illness especially in patients who are very young or old or have some other medical condition as well.

If you are in an at-risk group and have a medical card, the flu vaccine is available free of charge from GPs to people of all ages, and from pharmacists to people over the age of 18.

If you are at risk but do not have a medical card, the vaccine is free but your GP or pharmacist may charge an administration fee.

It is important to remember that flu is an extremely contagious respiratory illness and can lead to serious illness, even death, particularly for elderly patients and those suffering from chronic illnesses or a weakened immune system.

For more information about how to take care of yourself at home, visit www.undertheweather.ie/

Irish Independent

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