Flu and scarlet fever cases still on the rise: Public Health Agency issues advice for parents

Case of flu and other respiratory illnesses are likely to ‘continue to increase in coming weeks’, the Public Health Agency in the north has warned.

High numbers of scarlet fever, which is caused by group A streptococcus, also continue to be reported, the health body stated.

In light of this, the PHA has urged people eligible for the free flu and COVID-19 vaccines, who have not yet been vaccinated, to get it now and is particularly calling on the parents of pre-school and school-aged children to get them vaccinated against flu.

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Dr Joanne McClean, Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “Group A streptococcus usually results in a relatively mild illness. Rarely, when the bacteria get into blood it can cause a more serious illness referred to as invasive Group A streptococcal infection.

Children should not go to school if unwell, the PHA has said. File picture by Rido - stock.adobe.com

"Having a viral infection such as flu at the same time as Group A streptococcal infection increases the risk of developing the more serious invasive disease. The flu vaccine reduces the risk of having flu and group A Strep infections at the same time.

"The PHA strongly recommends children who are eligible get the flu vaccine – it’s the best way to protect them from serious illness. The flu vaccine for children has an excellent safety record, this includes the nasal spray given to school-aged children and pre-schoolers, which has been given to millions of children in the UK and worldwide.”

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Dr McClean said that if a child is unwell and has a fever, they should stay home from school or nursery.

“Good hand and respiratory hygiene is also key, so practice regular handwashing with soap and warm water. Catching coughs and sneezes in tissues then binning them is another simple way to help stop illness from spreading.

“Adults with symptoms of a respiratory infection and a high temperature or who do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out your normal activities should stay at home and avoid contact with other people and should not visit others in health and social care settings. Resting, drinking plenty of fluids and taking paracetamol or ibuprofen will ease your symptoms and help you recover. If you are concerned about your symptoms or they are getting worse contact your GP. In an emergency dial 999.”

More information on staying well and managing your symptoms can be found at www.nidirect.gov.uk/conditions/flu