Flu Circulating In England, Wales

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Influenza activity has now risen to what is considered 'normal seasonal levels', according to the Health Protection Agency's latest figures. Although it is too early to predict how much further flu will increase this year, the Agency's advice is to be alert to symptoms of flu.

* Anyone over the age of 65, or under 65 who falls into an "at risk" group, should ensure they receive their flu vaccination.

* Health care workers involved in the delivery of care and/or support to patients should see their occupational health department for their flu jab. Care workers should speak to their GP to establish if they meet the criteria for flu vaccination.

* If you do get flu this year, our advice is to stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies if they make you feel more comfortable.

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Dr Richard Pebody of the Health Protection Agency said, "For the last few years, we have seen very low levels of flu in the UK. Flu has started a bit earlier than normal this year and we have already seen a lot of flu activity. At this early stage, however, it is impossible to predict what levels we will see over the next few weeks. "

Dr Richard Pebody added, "Flu makes people feel worse than an ordinary cold. For most people it's a nasty experience, but for some in at risk groups it can lead to illnesses that are more serious such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

"This is why it is important that people in this group take up the offer of free flu vaccination at their local GP surgery. In addition the flu jab is currently well matched to circulating flu strains and should offer good protection.

"The best ways to decrease your chances of getting flu whether you are in an at risk group or not, is to practice regular hand washing and good respiratory hygiene - covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, using tissues and disposing of them correctly."

As a result of the increase in flu across England, doctors have now been advised that the use of antiviral drugs for the prevention or treatment of flu in patients who are at higher risk of developing complications from the infection is now recommended.

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