Is it a cold or is it the flu? Kingston University’s professors reveal ways in which students could potentially avoid the ‘influenza’ virus.
The recent outbreak of the flu virus left the nation in shock after the sudden death of 18-year-old Scottish student Bethany Walker.
So, do you have a deadly flu virus or simply a cold? Kingston has been recognised as a ‘danger zone’ by researchers as it is one of the areas in the UK that has been worst hit by the virus wave.
Kingston university’s medical professors, Dr Alistair Mann, tells Khadra Salad about the simple steps you can take to prevent yourself from falling victim to the life-threatening virus.
What is the Influenza?
The influenza virus, better known as the ‘flu’ is a contagious virus which is airborne that spreads by humans breathing where other people have coughed or sneezed in, as well as touching contaminated areas where victims of the virus have touched.
There are two types of the viruses, influenza A and influenza B, which both cause the annual influenza epidemics all over the world.
The common cold and the flu both have similar symptoms of sore throat, congestion and sneezing. But unlike the common cold, the flu’s symptoms come on very rapidly, with more symptoms of ‘dizziness’, nausea, fever and loss of appetite. So, if you’re experiencing anything like this then it might be likely you too have the flu and need to seek assistant from a health adviser.
The Aussie flu (strain A) has been a growing concern in the UK since its arrival in late 2017. The flu has already claimed 85 lives since the beginning of October, Public Health England have confirmed. With 170,000 deaths in Australia alone, its main victims being the elderly and the vulnerable.
The Yamagata strain, known as the Japanese flu, has hospitalised 2,754 people since its outbreak early this month. This type B influenza virus also particularly affects the vulnerable. Although, the Japanese flu isn’t as dangerous as the Aussie flu, it is easily spreadable and easier to contract.
However, the French flu (strain A) has now also become a major threat in the UK, already killing 30 people and leaving 11,500 being treated in hospitals across France. Experts believe it is simply a matter of time before the virus reaches the UK.
Nevertheless, the biggest flu to date is the Spanish flu which claimed 20 million lives world-wide and 500,000 lives just in the U.S which lasted from 1918-1919.
What to do if you get the flu?
Although health professionals recommend many ways to treat the virus, the best thing is to stay at home and away from people who you could potentially pass the virus on to.
Kingston University Professor Alistair Mann has advised, “If you get it, isolate yourself at home – don’t spread it.” This is the most effective method to stop it from spreading, since the virus is airborne.
The KU professor also explained, it is key to follow general precautions, making sure you keep hydrated, always staying warm and using over the counter medicines such as paracetamol when appropriate.
How to avoid the flu
If you don’t have it, here are the steps you can take to help prevent yourself from being another victim of the flu.
Firstly, there are two methods, one being vaccinations which are well proven to restrict the spread. However, some experts say vaccinations are only valid for a specific strain of flu. Vaccination is primary aimed at babies and the elderly as they are vulnerable and most at risk to contracting life threatening viruses. Pregnant women, asthma suffers, and the elderly are all eligible for free flu vaccination with the NHS as they are the ones that could be at risk and need the care. However, for people who are not eligible, the flu jab would only cost £5 at local pharmacies.
According to Mann, with the vaccination there is never a 100 percent chance it will prevent the infection. It all rather depends on taking care of it well before you are ill.
Another common method that is incredibly crucial is personal hygiene. This consists of washing your hands thoroughly before touching your face, when on the bus or shaking someone’s hand. Also, avoid anything you think might be contaminated with flu germs. Instead of directly holding the door handle, keep a cloth or tissue with you to help you open it, until the scare passes as it is spread very much by contact.
What does this mean for Kingston University?
Kingston University students who live in halls are at the highest risk of contracting the virus. A survey from ‘Public Health England’ found that due to the high influenza virus activity and cold weather during winter, people are usually indoors which helps the spreading of the virus and the humid air indoors may help the viruses survive longer.
The close proximity of KU students who are living in shared accommodation puts them at risk of spreading the virus much quicker. Also, Kingston upon Thames is being recognised as a ‘danger zone’ by flusurvey,org.uk, which adds to the worry of students at KU. Kingston’s pharmacy lecturer Dr Andrew Snabaits was among those who fell ill to the flu this winter, urging students to stay at home if they start to experience any symptoms, so as to both rest and recover and prevent the spread of infection.
The senior lecturer said: “It is through physical contact that the flu is actually transmitted, and so things like keyboards, door handles and stair banisters it makes it speed up the transmission.”
Although students are not the easiest targets for the flu, Snabaitis said it is always much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the flu.
KU students reveal their experiences with the flu
“I had the flu a few days back from the Christmas holidays. It was really bad and I had to stay in the room away from everyone. I was having terrible sweats and completely lost my appetite which wasn’t a great position to be in. It had gotten so bad that I had to go to the hospital and luckily I was seen to straight away but I am aware that some people weren’t as fortunate.”
“I had the flu during the Christmas holidays for around a week and a half, so I didn’t miss any lectures. It was really difficult to move around but I was able to get out of bed. I had a sore throat and I had a really bad headache, I think I got it from one of my family members. I’m not the type to drink medicine so I just had a lot of rest and drank a lot of water.”