Play your part in fighting flu and sickness in the east of England

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Public Health England (PHE) East is urging people to follow some simple steps to safeguard their health in the fight against influenza (flu) and norovirus this winter as it starts circulating in our communities.

It's worth remembering that vaccination is the best defence against the flu virus and that alcohol hand gels don't kill all viruses. Handwashing is the best way to protect yourself against norovirus and flu.

Dr Hamid Mahgoub, Consultant in Health Protection for PHE East of England, said: “We are already starting to see a rise in the number of reported cases of viral illnesses such as norovirus and flu, particularly in schools and care homes in the region, and this isn’t unusual. We do expect to see this level of germs circulating in the community at this time of year.

“We are providing advice to help reduce the spread of infection such as practising good hand hygiene and asking people to stay away from schools, hospitals and care homes until they are symptom free for at least 48 hours.”

Norovirus is a nasty bug, causing diarrhoea and vomiting which can live on hard surfaces for hours. It spreads very quickly through environments where lots of people are mingling closely, such as schools, nurseries, care homes and hospitals.

Flu is another virus that can be extremely unpleasant especially for young children, but for most healthy people it is a self-limiting illness. However, older people, those with long-term medical conditions or weakened immune systems can be more at risk of developing complications and should seek prompt medical advice if they develop symptoms of flu.

With both flu and norovirus, the best way to stop the spread is by practising good hand hygiene. Our young friends at William Westley Primary School in Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire have helped us put together some great advice in a video song about the importance of washing your hands.

Dr Mahgoub continued, “The flu vaccination is the best form of protection we have. All primary school children should take up the opportunity to be vaccinated when their school vaccination programme begins, and toddlers aged two and three should visit their GP surgery as normal to receive this. If your child has missed their school vaccination please contact your GP for follow-up clinics.

“We also encourage adults in higher risk groups for flu: including pregnant women, those aged 65 and over and people with long term medical conditions or weakened immune systems, to book in with their GP or local pharmacy to receive the free vaccine. Remember, the flu vaccine is available to everyone from your local pharmacy, and in most cases, you don’t need to book.”

It’s so simple to play your part in stopping the spread of Norovirus this winter – just #ThinkNORO:

N No visits to hospitals, care homes and GP surgeries if you are suffering from symptoms of Norovirus - send someone else to visit loved ones until you are better
O Once you’ve been symptom-free for at least 48 hours, you’re safe to return to work, school or visit hospitals and care home
R Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water, especially after using the toilet, and before eating or preparing food
O Only hand-washing will prevent spread of Norovirus - alcohol hand gels DON’T kill the virus

If you are concerned about your child’s symptoms, or need further advice on how to manage an illness please consult your GP or NHS 111 in the normal way.