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Influenza Information:

H5N1 Pandemic Flu

Flu as it is commonly known is one of the commonest ailments, although a proportion of illnesses – colds- are labelled as flu. Influenza is a viral disease that usually strikes between October and May. It is passed from one person to another through the air, and it lasts from three to five days and can be followed by fatigue for two or three weeks.

The infection affects your respiratory tract, but it can also afflict your gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines), musculoskeletal (muscles and bones), and nervous systems (nerves).

It often breaks out as an epidemic which quickly spreads from town to town and country to country. The outbreaks usually last for a period of four to six weeks in a specific area and then the virus is more intermittent.

Types of Virus

The influenza virus is in fact a group of viruses of which there are various types/strains:

         A - Major epidemics are usually due to a variant of this one
            B - Minor outbreaks
            C - Very minor more like a cold

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Bird Flu

Because there are so many strains of Flu doing the rounds they are often referred to by numbers for instance the one everyone knows at the moment is H5N1 strain which is affecting birds – Bird Flu – Avian Influenza - this is highly contagious to birds and like our range of viruses they can vary from mild flu to highly contagious flu with high death rate. H5N1 is contagious, and for our bird population it is a problem as the virus can remain in droppings for a long time. Our domestic flocks of chickens and turkeys are vulnerable due to the close proximity of their living conditions and it can be fatal for them. It has been circulating in other countries since 2003.

The reason there is concern is that the H5 / H7 / H9 – (These are called subtypes) have caused problems in humans, H7 and H9 have not caused as much of a problem as H5 is currently doing. There is no firm evidence that H5N1 is able to pass from person to person. However, concern remains that the virus might develop this ability. The concern is that the virus might develop this ability and that it might mix with human flu viruses to create a new virus.

The ability that  the avian influenza has to change and alter is the reason for the fear of a new human flu pandemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is mounting evidence that the H5N1 strain has a unique capacity to jump the species barrier and cause severe disease, with high mortality, in people.

H7N3 avian influenza has been confirmed in samples taken from chickens found dead in the UK. H7N3 last occurred in the UK in 1979 and bears no relationship to the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza.

For the latest up to date news on this visit: The World Health Organisation web site: World Health Organisation web

Or here:

visit the Department of Health web site:
Dept of Health web site

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Symptoms of Influenza:

include high temperature, coughing, and muscle aches. You may start with a rapidly progressive cold which then presents with a high temperature causing alternate shivering and then feeling very hot. If you are unfortunate to have the gastrointestinal element you will find yourself with vomiting and or diarrhea too.

You will find as I said that the worst of the symptoms will be over between three and five days, however you will feel exhausted and possibly even depressed after this and will need up to three weeks off to completely recover.


Antibiotics have no effect against influenza. – Therefore treatment is the old home cure

  1. Stay at home, rest in bed and sleep as much as you can

  2. Drink lots of fluids – although not alcohol

  3. Don’t smoke – if you are a smoker giving up after having flu is a good time to go for it

  4. Painkillers like Paracetamol and Ibuprofen will help reduce your temperature and help with those aching muscles. Aspirin can be taken although it should not be given to children under the age of 16

  5. Decongestants, cough medicines and throat lozenges all go to ease the symptoms

  6. Consult a doctor if the symptoms do not go after a week, or if you suffer from chest pains or become worse again.

Flu makes everyone feel dreadful, but most people make a full recovery. Influenza does have a small mortality, especially in the very young, the very old, and those with poor immunity. If you are concerned about a relative or friend and symptoms have persisted do consult your G. P. as secondary infections can be present when the immune system has been under stress.

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High Risk Category:

Prevention is better than cure and for those who are in the high risk group Influenza vaccine is very effective in preventing the flu.

The vaccine will be available to all those in the high risk group each year and your local surgery should contact you if they feel you fall into this category. Other medicines have been developed to combat influenza do discuss these with your Doctor or Pharmacist who will be able to give you all the latest information.

Those in the high risk category include

  • People aged 65 or older

  • People who have little or poor immunity systems

  • People with conditions such as:

    • lung disease

    • asthma

    • kidney disease

    • heart disease

    • diabetes

    • liver disease.

Please Note: The information provided here should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A medical practitioner should always be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions.

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