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Fears of New Year spike in flu cases

Fears have been raised that there could be a spike in the flu cases over the coming week as thousands of people return to work and children go back to school.

Being forced into close proximity with others as the cold weather continues has prompted health agencies to issue a public warning advising people to take extra care.

Figures released by the Public Health Agency show 146 people were positively diagnosed with the influenza virus in the week leading up to Christmas, with 129 of those contracting the H1N1 swine flu virus.

This was expected to rise after the Christmas and New Year celebrations which bring many people together, but now the worry is for the return to work, as the majority of cases have occurred in the under-65 age group.

With so many people huddled around computers and desks there are worries GPs could see a peak in flu cases, so the Public Health Agency has issued some advice for people to take precautions against catching the virus.

Dr Brian Smyth, a consultant in health protection with the PHA, said: “As we expect the flu viruses to continue to circulate for the next few weeks, it is vital that at-risk individuals get vaccinated.”

He advised people to take simple effective measures to protect themselves, such as using a tissue to cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, throwing the tissue into the bin and washing hands thoroughly as soon as possible.

“If you do get flu this year, our advice is to stay at home and don’t spread your infection to others.

“Rest, stay warm, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies if they make you feel more comfortable.”

Flu symptoms usually peak after two or three days and most people begin to feel much better within five to eight days.

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