GP explains why so many people are ill right now – from ‘super colds’ to flu

Despite the spring weather having finally sprung, it seems that many people are suffering from cold and flu-like symptoms.

There have been many anecdotal reports that residents across northern Lincolnshire have been struck down with bugs which aren’t Covid-19. It seems like everyone knows someone that is ill.

Yorkshire Live spoke to a GP and took a look at the data available to see if there is anything in the word-of-mouth stories. The doctor revealed if more people are ill than usual and whether we should be worried.

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The ‘super cold’

This term was first used in the UK at the end of last year to describe people with Covid-like symptoms who continue to test negative for Covid. It’s currently getting a lot of use in Australia as health experts there warn of more respiratory illnesses with the country opening up.

So what is the ‘super cold’, and why are we seeing the term throw around so much?

Doctor Ollie Hart, a GP at Sloan Medical Center in Sheffield, told YorkshireLive: “In our practice, I think we have seen an increase in people coming in with flu or cold-like symptoms. It’s felt like more than usual for this time of year and there seems to be quite a high occurrence.



People are mixing and spreading bugs they haven’t for a while

“But my gut feeling is that this is coming from people mixing with no barriers again. People are mixing and spreading bugs they haven’t for a while. We’ve been protected from that over the past few years and our immune systems aren ‘ t quite used to it.

“We’re seeing the usual range of symptoms – sore throats, runny noses, coughs, diarrhoea, it’s just almost concentrated at the moment now everyone is mixing with no restrictions.”

If you have any of those symptoms, Doctor Ollie advised people’s first port of call should always be their pharmacist before heading to the doctors. He added that people should make sure to take some time off to take care of themselves and recover if needed.

But crucially, he said: “People shouldn’t panic. We have almost forgotten what it’s like to have an ordinary cough or cold that’s not Covid.

“If you are clinically vulnerable or have a chronic health condition you should take a bit more care but for most people, we need to remember common sense about managing ordinary day-to-day illnesses. This is a normal part of life.

“There isn’t a plague running around. Having simple bugs is an ordinary fact of life.”

Flu

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) publishes a weekly surveillance report on incidence of influenza and Covid in the UK.

Flu is usually associated with the colder months, but Doctors have said we’re seeing a slightly later flu season than normal this year.

As per the most recent report from March 24, UKHSA said it was indicated that “influenza activity is low but increasing.” The previous week’s report states that there have been slight increases in hospital and intensive care admissions for flu recently.

From March 17 to March 24, influence positivity increased from 1.6% to 2.5%.

Out of 2,574 people who completed UKHSA’s FluSurvey in the week leading up to March 24, 7.9% of people reported having a fever or a cough, and 2.4% reported influenza-like illness. This is a slight increase on the week before, when the figures were 5.5% and 1.8% respectively.

The FluSurvey also found there has been an increase in people’s self-reported daily contact rates.

Related to influenza is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) – which came back in force this January. This causes mild cold symptoms, but can have a larger impact on young babies. The UKHSA advised anyone who noticed reduced feeding or breathlessness in young children to phone their GP or 111.

Norovirus

There’s another bug that’s going around too – the Norovirus, a stomach bug that can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. The NHS lists its main symptoms as being or feeling sick and diarrhoea, but people should also watch out for aching limbs, high temperatures and headaches.

As per the latest UKHSA report on Norovirus, it’s increasing across the country. From week nine to week 10 of 2022, reports of virus outbreaks doubled.

Outbreaks started in educational settings, and then became worse in care homes towards the end of February – there were 40 outbreaks seen in the week beginning February 14, and it has continued to increase into March.

Professor Saheer Gharbia, Gastrointestinal Pathogens and Food Safety Directorate, UKHSA, said: “Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, has been at lower levels than normal throughout the pandemic but as people have begun to mix more, the numbers of outbreaks have started to increase again.

“Symptoms include sudden onset of nausea, projectile vomiting and diarrhoea but can also include a high temperature, abdominal pain and aching limbs. Stay at home if you are experiencing norovirus symptoms and do not return to work or send children to school or nursery until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared.

“Please avoid visiting elderly relatives if you are unwell – particularly if they are in a care home or hospital. As with COVID-19 and other infectious illnesses, hand washing is really important to help stop the spread of this bug, but remember, unlike for COVID-19 alcohol gels do not kill off norovirus so soap and water is best. “

Coronavirus

Unfortunately, Covid is still very much here – and cases are currently increasing too. Even if you have tested negative using a lateral flow, Doctor Ollie advised anyone with Covid symptoms to get a PCR to be sure.

As per the latest Government data, the number of positive Covid tests reported in the seven days up to March 24 has risen by 14.5% compared to the previous seven days. 612,084 people tested positive in the last week.

The Omicron variant has two sub-variants – BA.1 and BA.2 that have been detected in recent weeks. The WHO said studies have shown the BA.2 variant appears to be “inherently more transmissible” than BA.1, and cases of it are increasing in relation to other variants of Omicron.

UKHSA said in its most recent report: “Increases may be attributable to a range of factors, including the gradual increase in social contacts over recent weeks (as seen in FluSurvey self-reported daily contact rates), the ending of legal requirements for self- isolation in week 9 and increased transmissibility of the BA.2 variant. “

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