Number of people attending GP surgeries flu-like symptoms doubles in a week

Public Health Agency figures reveal the number of people attending GP surgeries with flu-like symptoms has more than doubled in a week

THE number of people attending GP surgeries in Northern Ireland with flu-like symptoms has more than doubled in one week.

Figures released yesterday by the Public Health Agency (PHA) also reveals there has been a spike in the number of people diagnosed with flu.

There has been another flu-related death over the last week, bringing the total number this winter in the north to four.

Co Tyrone GAA player Christopher Colhoun (33) died on Monday, just 24 hours after he was admitted to hospital with flu, which he is understood to have been battling for a few weeks before becoming seriously ill.

The PHA said over the past seven days, there has been a significant increase in people attending GP surgeries with flu-like symptoms. The number rose from 22.7 per cent per 100,000 population in the last week of December to 52.6 per cent per 100,000 population to the first week of January.

The number of cases is now at the highest in three years, but still almost 50 per cent lower than the swine flu outbreak of 2010.

PHA figures show that "positive influenza detections" have risen from 42 per cent last week to 48 per cent. There has also been 10 confirmed influenza outbreaks in care homes in the past week and nine suspected cases.

Dr Lucy Jessop from the PHA said people can try to prevent flu from spreading.

"If you do become unwell with flu or flu-like symptoms, you should stay at home - most cases of flu are likely to be mild and can be managed at home with over-the-counter remedies," she said.

"For most people it will have resolved within a week, if not you should speak to your GP.

"Those in at-risk groups, may be more susceptible to serious illness and you should contact your GP earlier if you have a high temperature or shortness of breath for advice.

"It is also important to remember that a course of antibiotics won’t sort out your cold or flu. Cold and flu are viruses and antibiotics are useless against them.

"Viral infections are very common and as well as cold and flu they can include many infections of the nose, sinuses, ears, throat and chest. Most of these can be self-treated without the need for a visit to the doctor, and with no need for an antibiotic.”

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