Flu cases have now been reported in every area of the country as the final two areas holding out had incidents flagged up.
The national FluSurvey map, updated every three minutes, shows all types of the bug including the potentially deadly Aussie strain threatening the UK.
The last two areas to report cases were Dorchester and the City of London.
Uploaded reports on the map are used by Public Health England and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
There were 30 confirmed cases of Aussie flu at the weekend in one city alone as it continued its spread across the UK.
Sunderland and Durham feature on a map of hotspots.
Dr Richard Pebody, Acting Head of Respiratory Diseases department at Public Health England, said: “As we would expect at this time of year, flu levels have increased this week.
“Our data shows more people are visiting GPs with flu symptoms and we are seeing more people admitted to hospitals with it.
“The vaccine is the best defence we have against the spread.”
The latest statistics suggest around 4.5 million people in England are suffering from flu-like symptoms, with cases soaring by 48% in a week.
Some experts predict this could be the worst flu season in 50 years.
GP surgeries are reportedly overwhelmed with patients and hospitals have cancelled 55,000 ops to cope with the crisis.
Britain’s flu season often mirrors Down Under’s winter and the Aussie flu, or H3N2, triggered three times the normal number of cases there six months ago.
“Although the symptoms – a temperature, sore throat , headache and muscle aches – are essentially the same, they can be much more severe with Aussie flu than with usual flu,” explains Dr Ben Coyle, Chief Medical Officer at the Now Healthcare Group.
So, with Britain on the brink of an epidemic, here’s how to protect yourself against the particularly nasty strain from Australia…
Is it still worth getting the flu jab?
“Yes,” says Boots Pharmacist Angela Chalmers: “It’s not too late and, despite reports to the contrary, the current vaccination protects against Aussie flu.
“People should still get a flu jab if they haven’t done so already.”
People most at risk from serious illness or death if they catch flu can still get the vaccine free on the NHS, via their GP.
This includes anyone 65 and over, those with certain long-term medical conditions, people in long-stay residential care homes, carers and pregnant women.
The vaccine is also offered to most children aged from two to 11 – check with your GP surgery.
But even if you don’t qualify for a free jab you can still get one, with most pharmacies offering it privately, including Superdrug from £9.99, Lloyds Pharmacy £10, Boots £12.99 and Tesco £9.
Other good strategies
Wear gloves and wash your hands regularly
Although sneezes and coughs can spread the flu virus directly, you’re actually far more likely to become infected by touching contaminated surfaces – where bugs can last for 24 hours or more – and then touching your eyes or nose.
To combat, wash your hands throughout the day and keep a hand sanitising gel in your bag for when you can’t access a tap.
Wear winter gloves on public transport, using a cash machine or paying in a shop to further reduce potential germ exposure – as well as avoiding contact with sick people and crowded areas.
Boost friendly bacteria
Taking a daily probiotic for a regular dose of friendly bacteria may protect against flu and could also boost your response to the flu vaccine, helping ensure its effectiveness according to research.
This could be particularly useful in the elderly for whom the jab may be less effective.
Because the gut controls much of our immune system, boosting its levels of beneficial bacteria helps crowd out the bad germs that make us sick.
Try Bio-kult (£9.25 for 30 from bio-kult.com).
Increase your Vitamin D
Most cold and flu experts now recommend a daily dose of vitamin D throughout winter.
This is vital to support our immune system, enabling it to fight off flu, and since vitamin D is made by the action of sun on our skin, levels are naturally much lower in winter.
The Government advises taking 10mcg of Vitamin D daily from October to March – however for a stronger immune boost, a higher dose, as found in many health food supplements, may be necessary. Try: BetterYou Dlux1000, 25mg (£6.95, from betteryou.com).
Enlist herbal help
Research by the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff has found that simply taking the herb echinacea as a supplement can reduce the number of colds and flu you catch by more than 25%.
Try Echinaforce Chewables (£5.25 from avogel.co.uk)
What to try if you do succumb
- Keep warm, stay in bed and rest.
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
- Choose paracetamol-based remedies. A study by Southampton University found that patients who took paracetamol rather than ibuprofen to ease flu symptoms recovered faster. Try: Lemsip Max Cold & Flu capsules (£4.19, from Boots).
- See your GP if you’re in an at-risk group – younger children, over-65s, pregnant women, as well as those who have a long-term medical condition or a weakened immune system, should always see their GP if flu symptoms are severe.
- If your symptoms fail to improve after seven days, otherwise healthy adults should then consider going to see their doctor.
- But if you develop sudden chest pain, have trouble breathing or start coughing blood, you should go to A&E immediately.
- Don’t ask for antibiotics – they only target bacteria and can’t kill the flu virus, so will not relieve symptoms or aid your recovery.
- Your GP will only prescribe antibiotics if flu results in a secondary infection, such as a chest infection.
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