Australian flu is the H3N2 strain of the flu virus, and was given its name – for short ‘Aussie flu’ – after it affected up to 170,000 people in Australia during its winter.
This was more than two-and-a-half times last year’s total and over 300 people who caught the disease were reported to have died.
A headache is just one of the signs you’ve got the illness, but all symptoms come on very quickly and can include a sudden fever and a dry, chesty cough.
Two weeks ago Ireland saw its first deaths, and earlier this week the virus was confirmed in all postcodes in the UK.
The flu outbreak has been described as “more severe” than the Swine flu pandemic in 2009.
But what are the symptoms of Aussie flu and how does it compare to Japanese flu and French flu?
The NHS outlines nine flu symptoms:
- A sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
- Aching body
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- Dry, chesty cough
- Sore throat
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea or tummy pain
- Nausea and being sick
Experts have warned those most at risk of catching Aussie flu are the over 65s, pregnant women, young kids and those with chronic conditions like diabetes, lung and heart disease.
Yamagata or Japanese flu is a subtype of Influenza B. Aussie flu is type A.
It has similar symptoms to other sub-types of flu but it’s generally more mild than A strains, according to Dr Ben Coyle, Medical Director from the Now Healthcare Group.
He added: “Yamagata also tends to affect mainly children and is much more contagious as a result because children spread viruses more easily than adults.
“The vaccine that the NHS is offering to children protects against Yamagata and getting your child vaccinated will protect the wider population because there will be less spread – the vaccine given to adults in the NHS does not have Yamagata protection.
“Management is the usual – washing hands, covering mouth when coughing/sneezing, avoiding the at-risk, and using over the counter medicines like paracetamol for fever and other symptoms.”
Dr Coyle said there is no effective prescription treatment (antibiotics do not work on viruses) but the illness is generally mild and lasts about a week.
The vaccine is available from GPs for 2-3 year olds and schools for 4-8 yr olds and is the best protection against Yamagata.
French flu – H1N1 and some H3N3 strains of the influenza virus – has similar symptoms to Aussie flu, according to Now Healthcare Group’s Medical Director, Dr Ben Coyle.
He said: “It will have similar symptoms, so aching, high temperature, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, headaches, weakness/exhaustion and lethargy.
“Those most likely to get it, and to suffer a more severe illness, are the elderly or immunocompromised [long-term steroids, those on immune-modifying drugs or chemotherapy for instance], those with long-term health conditions, children and pregnant ladies.”
The flu vaccine is the best way to lower your risk of becoming infected with the virus, he added.
The NHS has also outlined how best to protect against and treat symptoms of the flu.