Swine flu is a strain of the H1N1 virus. The annual flu outbreaks are also strains of H1N1, but unlike previous years this strain contains genetic material from humans, pigs and birds. The reason medical experts are worried about this virus is because it is a new strain and people do not have immunity to it, meaning larger numbers may become infected and it may hit people harder.
The symptoms of the swine flu are fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and chills. Some people with the virus have also reported nausea and diarrhoea. If you experience these symptoms, please contact your GP or NHS 24 on 08454 24 24 24.
The numbers of people reporting flu-like symptoms to their doctors suggest that the flu outbreak may be the worst in ten years. Currently, Scotland is said to be suffering at a medium level of intensity. It would be interesting to know whether those figures include unreported cases also.
This winter, 254 people have died from flu in the UK – up from 112 last week. But at the moment the amount of people getting the virus is subsiding a little. Out of those who died 195 people had the H1N1 swine flu virus, and 4 in 5 of the people who died were in the “at risk” group but had not yet received their jabs for this winter.
Even though it sounds like a lot of people have died this week, they likely died over a six week period rather than in the last seven days as there was a backlog in the recording process over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
If you would like to know more about flu and flu vaccines, contact NHS24 on 0800 22 44 88.
The priority groups for the H1N1 swine flu vaccine (who get it for free) are:
- People aged over six months and up to 65 years in current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups. (about 640,700 people)
- All pregnant women, subject to licensing considerations (about 60,000 people)
- Household contacts of people with compromised immune systems e.g. people in regular close contact with patients on treatment for cancer (about 53,000 people)
- People aged 65 and over in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups (about 428,250 people). This does not include otherwise healthy over 65s, since they appear to have some natural immunity to the virus
- Frontline health and social care workers (approx 250,000 people) will begin to be vaccinated at the same time as the first priority group